A socially progressive spirit has permeated the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers since the day the first episode aired on August 28, 1993.
The original series broke down barriers for boys and girls in unprecedented ways for a program that, on the surface, appeared to be little more than low-budget escapism. But for the millions of fans who eagerly watched each episode, Power Rangers was about much more than teen superheroes, giant robots and foam rubber monsters. It was a program where they saw people like themselves treated as equals – a first for many young audiences – and it encouraged them to dream bigger than they had before.
Jason, Kimberly, Zack, Trini, and Billy may not have been the first racially diverse superhero team on television, but they were the first that didn’t reduce its members to limited stereotypes. Each Ranger was depicted as being just as all-American as the next, and they existed in a world that never saw them as anything less.
Power Rangers also united schoolyard social factions, presenting a reality where jocks, nerds, artists and intellectuals not only worked together, but were the best of friends – and girls kicked ass every bit as hard as boys.
The show’s groundbreaking approach to diversity in all its forms set a new standard for a live-action superhero series. No single character is a better representation of that legacy than the Yellow Ranger.
One of the original “five teenagers with attitudes” recruited by Zordon to fight the forces of Rita Repulsa, Trini Kwan (played by Thuy Trang) was selected for her quick wit, kind heart, and lightning hands. The Vietnamese superhero was also an instant icon who inspired a generation of girls – a generation which is struggling to find representation in any form of entertainment even today.
For the short year and a half she wielded the Saber-Toothed Tiger Power Coin and piloted the Saber-Toothed Tiger Dinozord, Trini was an example that young women could be graceful, smart and strong simultaneously without sacrificing one aspect of their personality for another.
Actress Thuy Trang abruptly exited the series in the middle of its second season along with her fellow cast members Austin St. John (The Red Ranger/Jason Lee Scott) and Walter Jones (The Black Ranger/Zack Taylor) following a contract dispute. Rather than bring in new actors to play the parts of Trini, Jason, and Zack the characters were written out of the series. New Rangers were selected by Zordon to join the team and Aisha Campbell was the second young woman entrusted with the Saber-Toothed Tiger Power Coin.
What the character Trini had done for one underrepresented group of people, Aisha did for another. The Yellow Ranger was once again a beacon for social progress. For many fans, Aisha was the first woman of color they could regularly watch in a live-action superhero series who looked like themselves.
Like her predecessor before her, the new Yellow Ranger was also a balance of brains and brawn, but actress Karan Ashley put a stamp on the character that was very much her own. She showed young people that compassion was a source of power rather than weakness and women could be kind and still kick ass.
Aisha carried the torch for the Yellow Ranger through the "Mighty Morphin" era, ensuring the character continued to be a progressive force for social change throughout its initial run.