We all fondly remember Captain Planet as a show that taught us about environmentalism, saving the Earth, and how it’s OK to make fun of a superhero if his power sucks (too bad for you, Ma-Ti!). Also, it let Ted Turner feel better about being a multibillionaire, and helped maintain the cultural supremacy of the mullet. Look at that glorious green monstrosity.
On the flip side, many environmental issues are boring, and making them exciting can trivialize the nature of the problem. Or you can just throw sanity out the window and get flat-out offensive, and after looking at these five episodes, we’re fairly sure that the writing staff consciously decided to teach children terrible lessons because it was funny, or just didn’t really think through the implications of what they were saying.
#5) Captain Planet Doesn’t Understand Slavery
“The Ark” really sets the tone for all of this; aliens descend from the skies and capture humans because humans are busy killing themselves off and need protection. It’s intended to reflect that Hoggish Greedly and Dr. Blight just dumped the animals from their rainforest golf course into a zoo, and to declare that zoos are bad.
Of course, the analogy kind of falls apart because there were billions of humans at the time (and yes, they went with the old “you’re endangered because you’re killing your planet” saw). And also that when we lock up sentient beings capable of reason and logic, we generally call that “slavery.”
#4) Yeah, That’s Not Going to Be An Awkward Conversation At All
We’d tell you this doesn’t come off like a creepy insane acid trip in context, but we’d be lying. This episode about a cute population of mouse people dying horribly because they hump too much is probably one of the crazier episodes in a series noted for being crazy.
But the reason we chose the end is the PSA. Yeah, let’s guilt-trip kids about their reproductive choices when they’re in second grade. That’ll end well. Do we really want the moral to be “have sex and your entire species will end?”
#3) Drugs Are Instantly Addictive and Cause Riots, Kids
To assemble this list, we had to watch a lot of Captain Planet, and inevitably, we hit the anti-drug episode. We were expecting it to be utterly ridiculous. We weren’t expecting it to be bleak and depressing.
Just to review: Linka is slipped drugs in her food, and instantly becomes hooked. By the end of the episode, a massive riot of withdrawal zombies has broken out and Linka’s cousin Boris is dead.
You know, there might have been a better way to teach about how drugs are bad. I mean, if we’re going bleak, why not have the Planeteers fight the Columbian cartels? Let’s have them blow up Ma-Ti’s family and have him go on a bitter, dark quest for revenge!
#2) Captain Planet Solves The Troubles, the Israeli-Palestine Conflict, and Apartheid. In One Episode.
In addition to the environmental and social issues it terribly mishandled, Captain Planet also made a few ill-advised forays into politics. Like, oh, the massive ongoing war in Ireland between Catholics and Protestants in an episode sensitively titled “If It’s Doomsday, This Must Be Belfast”
For those unfamiliar, this was basically a rolling civil war between the Irish and English over who was going to run Northern Ireland, with all the added fun of religious and ethnic tensions exploding into roughly forty years of violence. Over three thousand people have died and they’re still occasionally shooting at each other.
You know, perfect for the kiddies. Especially when you can sum up the Catholic and Protestants not as two groups with very different religious and political views that spent decades trying to reconcile each other to live in peace, but as a bunch of rival gangs with funny accents:
It ends with a Protestant and a Catholic fighting over who gets a nuke before Wheeler steps in and says “Guys, it’s important that we forgive, right?”
And that ends the entire dispute. Thanks, idiot American teenager!
You might be wondering why they chose this instead of the Israeli-Palestine conflict. The answer is that it’s a subplot in the same episode. Oh, and they’re also dealing with apartheid in yet another subplot. See, it’s all a plan by Verminous Skumm to sell nukes so people who hate each other can blow each other up. All we need is the Sierra Club’s idea of the Rainbow Coalition to visit and solve these complex issues in, oh, ten minutes.
But, hey, at least they didn’t try to explain the evil of Nazism to little kids.
#1) Captain Planet Vs. Hitler
Oh wait. They did.
We could tell you about this episode, but let’s just say it goes about as well as you’d expect trying to explain Hitler and his actions to grade schoolers