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 clichés. 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.
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?
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.