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Puppet Kaos - where Kelvin Kao plays with puppets and tell random stories

Why Power Rangers Writing Is Brilliant (Like Romantic Comedy)

When I was re-watching Power Rangers in Space three months ago, I was only doing it for nostalgic reasons. However, I actually found the writing to be surprisingly good. The writers managed to explore many themes and really develop the characters, even though it was for kids, was based on the classic good vs. evil storyline and had lots of clichΓ©s. In fact, in an odd way, those formulaic element actually helped, a lot.

You know what else also use formulas a lot? Romantic comedies. I realized that Power Rangers and romantic comedies had a lot in common.

The Formula

Here’s the Power Rangers formula:
1) Monster/Villain was looking for something or simply wanted to destroy the city for the hell of it
2) Power Rangers showed up
3) Power Rangers defeated the Monster
4) Monster became gigantic and tall as the buildings, somehow (using some kind of energy source)
5) Power Rangers brought on the Megazords (battle robots)
6) The Megazord defeated the Gigantic Monster and Villains vowed to try again

Here’s the romantic comedy formula:
1) Guy and Girl unexpectedly met each other in a serendipitous encounter
2) They found one another odd/weird/interesting/annoying and yet strangely attractive
3) They fell in love and had passionate sex
4) They broke up because they had a misunderstanding / found out they had too many differences / decided there were more important things than being together
5) They couldn’t forget each other and took each other back in tearful reunion
6) One more long passionate kiss with camera panning 360 degrees in scenic setting (followed by optional wedding / honeymoon / trip)

Now, we all know what’s going to happen. Although the Power Rangers appeared to be losing, they would eventually triumph. Although the couple was broken up, you knew they would beat the odds and be together again for the ending (and possible sequel).

Well, then why the hell are you still watching anyway?

The Characters

Since you already roughly know what is going to happen, we can now put the focus on the characters. The five (or six) Power Rangers are all given distinct characters. The romantic comedy leads and supporting cast all have looks and personalities you can either admire, relate to, or despise. You already roughly know what is going to happen, so character development can take center stage and really make the whole thing come alive.

The Expected and Unexpected

It is very satisfying to know the story is going the way that you think it’s going to go. Kids beg their parents to tell them their favorite story over and over, even though they’ve heard it many many times. In Power Rangers, you expect the good to triumph over the evil. In romantic comedies, you expect true love to brave through all obstacles. You expect that, and it’s very satisfying to see it play out. But also, another thing with formulas is that you can break them if you can do it right. Astronema, the prince of evil, is actually the long-lost sister of Andros, the Space Power Ranger? What? One of the villain, Dark Specter actually had quite a noble side. Wait, really? (And I couldn’t think of romantic comedy examples off the top of my head because I don’t have enough people making me watch those.) If a writer can deviate from the formula in interesting ways, they are very nice surprises. Of course, in the grand scheme of things, you still want to follow the formula to a degree.

The Suspension of Disbelief

Also, the suspension of disbelief is an important element in these two genres. Come on, really? Power Rangers? Are you telling me that a bunch of people in colorful spandex are here to save the Earth? Why are there still buildings left in Angel Grove when monsters and robots fight there all the time? And aren’t those monsters and robots just actors in rubber suits? And for romantic comedy, come on, would that line actually work in real life? If someone does that to you, would you say “oooh, that’s hot” or “ew, that’s creepy!”? In real life, and especially when you don’t look like a movie star, let’s just say that results might vary. So, suspension of disbelief is very important for these genres.

When you can accept that men in spandex are fighting rubber monsters using plastic toys, you can accept a story about a magical stone with dark powers creating a black hole and warping the time-space continuum. When you can get an “aww” from the highly unlikely ways two people get together, you are willing to accept how they get back together again after the break-up. Once you can accept the premise, you are willing to accept a lot more weird things that the writers throw at you. It works that well.

The Process and the Result

Since these things tend to follow a formula, it’s the process that counts, not the result. Given the not-so-surprising beginning and ending, what happens in between becomes the most import and variable part of these stories. You know the good guys will win, but you want to know how. You know the main characters will live happily ever after, but you want to know how they are going to get to that point. So the process is the main focus. However, this also means that if the process isn’t written and executed right, you will have really mediocre results. This is why some Power Rangers series have great stories, while some do not. The same thing applies to romantic comedies.

But hey, when everything works, these things can be so downright brilliant.

Comments

  1. April 21st, 2010 | 2:11 pm

    Ha! This is a superb analysis of storytelling in general. There is that basic story arc — failure is impending but the heroes triumph against all odds! Audiences love that arc because it’s hopeful. I do think it gets tiresome, however, if it doesn’t have some sense of originality.

    Melissa Donovan’s last blog post..Types of Poems: Pantoum

  2. April 21st, 2010 | 3:49 pm

    There’s always hope. One day, Charlie Brown will kick that football.

    But sucks to be you if you are the villain. πŸ˜€

  3. April 21st, 2010 | 3:53 pm

    I loved the Power Rangers and their epically awesome predictable storylines…. rom com… not so much. Does that make me weird?

  4. April 21st, 2010 | 4:49 pm

    Nope, not weird, just not typically girly.

  5. Na
    April 24th, 2010 | 1:14 am

    And at the end of the movie there is always a pan shot from the ground towards the sky, usually using a helicopter so we feel as if we are getting further and further away from the action.

    Why we keep watching? As many romcoms figured out, it’s the tension. The minute the couple get together (or the bad guy is dead, whatever), there is no longer any conflict or tension, and the oomph goes out of the movie/show. It’s why they always wait for the final season to get the couple together, why they always avoid ‘jumping the shark’ with things like introducing babies, etc. etc (See ‘Will & Grace’, or ‘The Nanny’)

    It’s interesting that the most popular shows of late have been ones to totally avoid formulas. Ie. Lost

    My favourite thing I ever saw that broke the formula: a soap (er, I believe it was ‘Passions’) that had a character make a *tomato soup cake*. I just laughed my head off at that, as none of the characters did much but screw their noses up, as if it were a caramel cake and everybody prefered chocolate. Talk about suspending belief!

  6. April 24th, 2010 | 4:33 am

    Oh, how I love watching soap opera and laughing at them. πŸ˜€

  7. Na
    April 24th, 2010 | 10:17 pm

    Whenever I’m flipping channels and I hit a soap, I always manage to land at a scene where someone is trying to convince someone else to dump a third person … oh yes, now I remember why they’re called soaps! :)

  8. April 26th, 2010 | 1:36 am

    Really? You always see that part? Whatever happened to the scenes where the third person is begging the second person to stay? πŸ˜›

  9. Na
    April 26th, 2010 | 1:39 am

    Or the bits where the characters are fighting over who gets to run the fashion house? :)

    Honestly, miss a decade of episodes and you still have no trouble catching up. (Do the actors ever do any other roles? Seems like they never retire…)

  10. April 29th, 2010 | 8:40 pm

    […] just after I wrote about the formulas in Power Rangers and romantic comedy, I came across this Youtube video about what an Academy-Award-winning movie trailer would look […]

  11. Randy
    May 3rd, 2010 | 12:05 pm

    Red Letter Media also articulated story structure very well:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxKtZmQgxrI

  12. May 3rd, 2010 | 8:41 pm

    Haha, yeah, saw that. But there are a lot more wrong besides story structure in that case…

  13. May 8th, 2010 | 5:38 pm

    I like this plot analysis stuff you have been doing. Have you read the book “Save the Cat!”? It is an excellent book about writing screenplays that happens to apply to many other things as well. I finally feel that I could actually write a halfway decent piece of fiction after reading it.

  14. May 8th, 2010 | 9:57 pm

    I haven’t read it but I’ve heard it recommended many times. Maybe it’s time to get one. πŸ˜‰

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