In the latest example of Hollywood’s inability to understand just why fans are unashamed to unironically enjoy their favorite franchises, Power Rangers executive producer Simon Bennett recently shared his belief that in order for the franchise to “reach a large mainstream audience”, it must “move away from its tokusatsu roots”.
Bennett, who first served as the director for the Ninja Steel/Super Ninja Steel and Beast Morphers series before moving on to serve as the EP for Dino Fury, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: Once & Always, and the upcoming Cosmic Fury, first raised this suggestion for the franchise’s future on August 24th.
Speaking to the ongoing push back from fans against his decision to have Cosmic Fury feature original suits and footage rather than archival material from either of its source Super Sentai series, Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger and Uchu Sentai Kyuranger, the franchise EP condescendingly trotted out the tired defense, “Call me radical, but I suspect that those adult Power Ranger fans who are also diehard Super Sentai fans, may be vociferous when PR deviates from its traditional source material, but are also a minuscule percentage of the viewership of the show. Which is made for children.”
In turn, Twitter user @DamsTrn argued, “Made for children doesn’t mean you can’t have a matur approach tbh, Disney era, specially RPM are the proof of that. I think we can’t blame anyone because they want the licence they love to be better at their eyes…”
“Personnaly if I turned my head to Sentai and Kamen Rider (past like current) it’s because they are more what I search, the mature approach I think a licence like that should have to share is vision and messages to kids,” they added. “But that’s my opinion.”
“Super Sentai and Kamen Rider are fantastically imaginative and brilliantly successful,” replied Bennett. “I love them and also adore Studio Ghibli films. However, some aspects of these properties are very specifically Japanese in their sensibilities, and will therefore be of niche appeal in the US.”
“To attract a sizeable mainstream audience in the US, a process of cultural translation is required to ‘Americanize’ the shows,” he continued. “This is what Power Rangers had been doing for 30 years.”
“MMPR hit the zeitgeist in the early 1990s as it was new,” Bennett recalled. “And there was nothing else like it in Western TV-land. Maintaining the scale of its success after the ‘newness’ wore off was always going to be a challenge.”
“I think part of Hasbro’s goal to move PR to being fully original, is to reduce aspects of Sentai style and design, which may be challenging for US kids,” the franchised EP then claimed. “The superheroes in spandex fighting rubber monster suits trope is a hard sell to audiences brought up on Marvel and Star Wars.”
Roughly two weeks after engaging in this thread, Bennett would again argue in favor of Power Rangers distancing itself from Super Sentai, this time while offering his thoughts on the current state of Power Rangers while discussing his hopes for director Jonathan Entwhistle’s upcoming YA-themed reboot of the franchise.
“I’m a big fan of Jonathan Entwhistle’s previous output,” wrote Bennett to his personal Twitter page on September 10th. “End of the F***king World and I’m Not Okay With This were fresh and groundbreaking TV. I’m confident that if Hasbro can get the new Entwhistle YA Power Rangers reboot series off the ground, it’ll be riveting and original.”
Bennett’s optimism was then met with a cautious agreement from Twitter user @SonicBlueRanger, who told the EP, “I hope so. My big concern is it’s going to try to veer too far away from the franchises Tokusatsu roots in a misguided attempt to try and make PR the new MCU or big nerd franchise in general.”
Taking note of their worries, Bennett responded, “I think, and this is only my opinion, that to reach a large mainstream audience, the franchise has to move away from its Tokusatsu roots.”
“It’s this that has kept Power Rangers niche for so long with US audiences,” he added, ironically ignoring the role such dismissive attitudes towards Power Rangers and Super Sentais‘ earnestness have played in both franchises developing negative reputations among Western audiences. “It needs to do this in a way that is fresh and compelling.”
Unsurprisingly to everyone but himself, fans of both franchises did not take well to Bennett’s suggestion, with many in turn pouring out to publicly criticize his dismissal of Super Sentai‘s sincerity.
However, rather than accept that this negative reception was the result of his opinion being rather unpopular, Bennett would return to Twitter the next day to accuse his critics of ‘attacking’ him.
“Amazing,” he wrote on September 11th. “Gotta love Twitter. Another mass pile-on as people choose to misread reasonably innocuous comments – and attack the poster. This really is like digital Deadwood!
Met with @Kiramainep’s frustrated declaration that he “shouldn’t be directing a tokusatsu franchise if you hate tokusatsu” and his “inability to take any to take any criticism even when it’s productive shows why this brand is dying”, Bennett ultimately explained, “I don’t hate Tokusatsu – I admire it greatly.”
“My comment was that for PR to find mass audience success in the US again, I think it needs to move away from its Tokusatsu roots,” he concluded.
Sadly, such denigration of the ‘magic’ that makes Super Sentai work is expected of a Hollywood creator who admitted that, upon joining the franchise, “It took me some time to get my head around how obviously plastic toys and rubber monsters were taken so seriously.”
“There was laughter at our Japanese footage meetings,” admitted Bennett on August 20th, “where the excerpts selected by the writers were discussed by other HoDs re matching locations and action.”