Written by: Trent McLaurin, APSU Corporate Communication student
It is a great time to be alive if you are fascinated with every nerd/geek culture. Comic book movies are mainstream, Power rangers just hit theaters, and an infatuation with super heroes is at an all-time high. Never before has being a nerd or geek paid off so much with a lot of aspects of that culture being accepted and integrated into mainstream society. There was once a time where we were shunned by the outside world, that we were basement dwellers and suffered from severe acne, but those stereotypes of geeks/nerds are only figments of the past.
Going back to Power Rangers for a minute, I just saw it in theaters and it was good for the most part, but it was not until I left the theater that something dawned on me. In the movie, we follow five characters as they discover their powers; “yadda yadda” basic hero stuff, but one of the characters has autism. Billy Cranston, the blue ranger, states he is “on the spectrum” and displays a general awkwardness when in public and dealing with his friends. This is not the first film to future an autistic protagonist, as Forest Gump and Rain Man featured prominent characters who had a form of autism. Billy is an African American male who gets bullied because he is a nerd and nerds get bullied in this day and age, etc. Eventually he overcomes his bullies and goes on to become the blue ranger and saves the town. Along with the movies named previously, the characters come out pretty well at the end of the film.
Seems pretty cut and dry right? Let’s dive into his character a little bit more. Billy is an autistic African American male who becomes a hero and saves a town. Billy is arguably the best character in the movie and is integral to the plot of the movie. His diagnosis is not magically solved by the “Ranger power” he obtains, nor is he the butt of most of the jokes in the film. He is not manipulated into doing anything but actually leads others to follow him; in my opinion, he should have been the red ranger, which is the main leader of the Power Rangers for those who do not know.
Billy, as a character, means more than just him being the blue ranger or the token black guy in the movie. He is a symbol of a changing world. Just recently Sesame Street announced the inclusion of an autistic character to their lineup of characters. Things that were once joked about or hidden in secrecy are now being incorporated in to mainstream society. The idea of autistic people using what society deems a disadvantage to their advantage is a theme that films have tackled before. From the unique mind of Raymond Babbitt, the athletic prowess of Forest Gump, and the ingenuity of Billy Cranston, come examples of autistic people using their disorder to benefit themselves and others. The world is redefining what it means to be a hero; that no matter the disability, no matter the creed or color, you can make a difference. All you have to do is be open enough to accept the change.