Like any kid who grew up during the late 80s-early 90s, I lived for Saturday morning cartoons. My sister and I would get up at the ass-crack of dawn, bug the shit out of our parents to see if they’d get up early and make us breakfast, and settle in for a blissful morning of Garfield, the Gummi Bears, and whatever the hell else was on. But there was always one cartoon that I would refuse to watch. That cartoon? Captain Planet.
In all honesty, I can’t remember if Captain Planet was part of the Saturday morning cartoon lineup or not. I do remember that it was either on TNT, TBS, or USA back when all of those networks sucked, but the main thing about Captain Planet was that it was awful. I hated Captain Planet so much, I wouldn’t watch it if it was the only cartoon on. It lost favor with me right off the bat by being anti-pollution. I got enough of that pro-recycle bullshit at school, so the last thing I wanted was to hear about it on the two glorious days I had off. As far as I was concerned, Captain Planet should have been buried alive in a landfill with one of those plastic soda can rings fitted snugly around his throat. DON’T TRY TO SCHOOL ME ON SATURDAY, SON. But the educational message wasn’t the only reason why I hated this show.
First, look at some of your classic, awesome super heroes: Batman. Superman. Spider-Man. What is the one thing, besides super powers, they all had in common? Kick ass villains! Batman had the Joker. Superman had Lex Luthor. Spider-Man had the Green Goblin. It could be argued that the villains are the ones who made those stories so engaging. After all, why bother having super heroes if there is no conflict? There has to be a ying to their yang.
What was Captain Planet’s villain? His entire reason for existence? Pollution. His arch-nemesis, the reason that he bothered to get up in the damn morning, was to fight pollution. Basically he shares an enemy with Al Gore, Hootie the Owl, and anybody who has ever adopted a road or sponsored a seashore clean-up. “Wow, that’s so much better than the Joker!” said no one ever.
As if the lame “villain” weren’t bad enough, Captain Planet also had the inability to fight it alone. He always needed help, which were found in his Planeteers. And Captain Planet could only be summoned when those losers put their rings together. Each Planeteer had his or her own special skill set (which I believe came from his or her ring). Four of them could control the elements, which was pretty cool, but the fifth schmuck had a power called Heart, which, to this day, I have absolutely no idea what the hell that did. Did it make people fall in love? Like each other? Unite people in love for the planet? Make people care about the planet? It’s like the show’s creators mistakenly created one Planeteer too many, and had to come up with a power on the fly. Way to go, guys. Coming up with an ambiguous “power” is surely the pathway to animation success.
But the thing that I think made Captain Planet suck the most was his message: “The power is yours.” Basically, he’s saying, “Hey, kids! If you just stop being assholes to the planet, you won’t really need me or my Planeteers! So start recycling and stuff, and we’ll never see eachother again, is that cool? Okay, bye!”
What kind of a superhero are you if you’re not needed when people do just one simple action? You don’t see Superman saying to the citizens of Metropolis, “Hey guys, you don’t really need me to save you from Luthor. Just don’t pay attention to him and he’ll go away, promise.” No, because if it were that easy, there would be no reason for Superman to exist. So basically Captain Planet is ineffective and not really needed in the first place. Wow, what an AWESOME superhero! I’m gonna go out and buy his action figure RIGHT. NOW.
Looking back, I’m not sure why this cartoon existed in the first place, and I’m confused by its apparent popularity (I think it spawned a movie. No shit.). All I know is that to this day, I harbor a hatred for Captain Planet that is so strong, I’m pretty sure it has its own mass. “The power is yours?” SCREW THAT, CAPTAIN.