In the Loop

What the heck happened to Captain Planet?

Posted at 3:29 PM on January 29, 2007 by Sanden Totten (9 Comments)

On Friday MPR hosted a discussion about how the world is dealing with Global Warming. It's pretty serious stuff and it got me thinking: "Boy, we could really use some help dealing with our environmental problems'. Who should we turn to?" Captain Planet, of course.

Captain.jpgFor those of you who didn't grow up in the 90's, Captain Planet was a cartoon show about a team of international teenagers who would summon a powerful mullet-sporting superhero to help them clean up the earth. Sounds like the perfect guy for the job, huh? Unfortunately, he's been hard to track down. His show was canceled in '93 and after a brief rap career, the Captain hit rock bottom. He was spotted at holiday parties after having a little too much organic "egg-nog". Now he's going back to his roots by working with the Captain Planet Foundation to help bring the message of reducing, reusing and recycling to kids around the world. (Captain Planet image via Turner.com)

But in all seriousness, it seems to me that when I was growing up eco-friendly cartoons were all the rage. I can think of at least three pro-environment cartoons off the top of my head. And there was the lovable Woodsy Owl telling kids to "give a hoot, don't pollute!" But after the mid-90's I can't think of a single green cartoon. It's like the environment suddenly stopped being hip. Maybe I just stopped watching cartoons. Either way, these cartoons deeply influenced the way I think about the environment today. I certainly still feel guilty every time I don't bother recycling and when I do, I catch myself reciting the Captain Planet mantra "the power is yours!"

Are kids getting the same kind of messages from their cartoons today? Who are the eco-heroes of the new decade?


Comments (9)

Most of today's popular cartoons come from Japan, don't they? I bet there are subliminal Kyoto-related messages all throughout. Just wait 'til these kids grow up...they'll curb carbon emmissions without even understanding why.

Posted by Jeff Jones | January 29, 2007 6:24 PM


i still have my captain planet action figure. and strangely still my virginity.

Posted by Mickey B. | January 29, 2007 7:26 PM


Poking through the Captain Planet stuff, I got a kick out of the description of "Wheeler," the Planeteer kid who represented North America:

-- Wheeler is the least knowledgeable Planeteer when it comes to ecology. Although he sometimes fails to understand the issues at hand, his heart is in the right place. He fancies himself the "ladies' man" and flirts incessantly with Linka, the Planeteer from Eastern Europe. --

Nice. Mickey, maybe a Wheeler action figure would bring you better luck.

Posted by Jeff Horwich | January 29, 2007 10:00 PM


Yeah, because you know the only way to deal with the very real possibility that in forty years we won't be able to grow wheat in the US is to talk about another stupid cartoon.


The time for such things has long past. It may be too late to really do anything about global warming. At best, all we may be able to do is adjust. The chance that we might truly change course is probably gone. Think about that... Think long and hard about that.


What people need is information and not government propaganda. What people need is to realize that their children and grandchildren may not have a future. What people need is for corporate media, and that includes MPR and NPR, to stop playing stenographer to power and try doing some actual journalism for once.


What you at MPR need to do is to walk past the Reuters machine and walk out the door and try talking to some real people for a change. And no.... not this managed, focus grouped, corporate cheerleading... "ohhhh!!! ROFL!!!!! Ohmygawwwd!" swill you're trying to peddle. In thirty years of listening I have to say that was the lowest moment I've ever heard.


You must be so proud.


And because I think that you are indeed very proud of your show that is why I despise you and everything you stand for. And it is why I am ashamed to call myself a member of MPR.


Why? Because while my country was being destroyed and my world burned you sat by and put on your petty little shows and watched cartoons.

Posted by noen | January 31, 2007 1:04 AM


noen:


Don't you think that our inability to do something about global warming has something to do with the cultural state of things? Our mindsets? Yes, as you say, propaganda? Or, maybe, the lack of anything with cultural heft to counteract propaganda?

To that end, Sanden is hitting on what may seem to you a trivial point, but I don't think it's a minor one: Where's today's pop culture treatment of environmental problems and degradation?

Millions of (impressionable, persuadable) kids watch cartoons. Don't you think Captain Planet and the other eco-friendly cartoons had some effect on the kids watching them (like Sanden)?

Think about it ...

Posted by Andrew Haeg | January 31, 2007 10:05 AM


Hi noen,

You bring up some good points. The state of our environment is certainly a real concern. I didn't mean to refute that with my post. In fact one of the reasons we wanted to look at this topic was to ask why, despite all the information on global warming, why so many of us aren't drastically changing our lifestyles. I personally don't think it's too late for action as you suggest but I do think our own mindset on the issue is a crucial obstacle we need to overcome before large scale change can happen.

To your second point, we do try to talk to people for our show. In fact we have open events every month where anyone who wants can come and help us develop ideas for the show. This months topic came from one of those meetings.

And as for cartoons, I must admit, they had a big impact on my world. As I mentioned in the post, I still have a set of values I gained while watching shows like Captain Planet and Widget the World Watcher. I think that cartoons that help kids understand the importance of our environment are a good thing, even if they are primarily entertainment.

Posted by Sanden Totten | January 31, 2007 10:55 AM


"To that end, Sanden is hitting on what may seem to you a trivial point, but I don't think it's a minor one: Where's today's pop culture treatment of environmental problems and degradation?"

I don't think it's minor either, I think it's too late. Sorry, but the journals I'm reading and the scientists I'm talking to are deeply, deeply alarmed. Far more than they reveal in public. That's because they are afraid of getting torn to shreds by the hate campaign from the right and the lies and obfuscation from the media.

" I think that cartoons that help kids understand the importance of our environment are a good thing, even if they are primarily entertainment."

What we should be doing is teaching them how to deal with the world they will be living in. Environmentalist pieties kind of fall by the wayside when a nation cannot grow enough food for everyone. Or when there isn't enough fresh water to go around. And when cheap oil and all that it can buy is history.

Trust me, these things are going to happen because: one, no one is going to do anything about it until it's too late and two, it's probably already too late.

The time to affect change has past. Time now to accept the reality and adjust. Why do you think the Bush clan owns 700,000 acres in Paraguay? They know something you don't. Like what parts of the world are most likely to be most affected and where the world's largest fresh water aquifer is.

Posted by noen | January 31, 2007 12:23 PM


noen:

"What we should be doing is teaching them how to deal with the world they will be living in. Environmentalist pieties kind of fall by the wayside when a nation cannot grow enough food for everyone. Or when there isn't enough fresh water to go around. And when cheap oil and all that it can buy is history."

Heh. So, instead of having Captain Planet teach about protecting the environment, you'd prefer there to be cartoons teaching kids about the apocalypse.

Gotcha covered: Sponge Bob Square Pants.

Posted by Rob | January 31, 2007 5:43 PM


Hi Rob. Nawww. There won't be any apocaypse. Not like you think anyway. There will be wars over oil, like the one we are in right now, and then more wars over water. Hundreds of millions across the globe will be displaced by the rising oceans. The Netherlands will disappear. Manhattan inundated, Florida inundated.

Because of rising temperatures and chaotic weather, we will no longer be able to grow enough food to feed everyone. And because of peak oil, which will hit in about ten years, what we like to call our civilization will collapse. Put all these together in your head: rising temps = less food, mass social upheaval, opportunistic pandemics, decreased supply of potable water, mass species extinctions at the rate of 3000 a year (the current rate) and up, 200 dollar a barrel oil and up, never to come down, rising oceans (20 feet is not out of the question) that displace untold millions and destabilize entire continents.

I was where everyone else is today twenty years ago. Back then, trying to warn people and tell them something needed to be done fell on deaf ears. I was ignored and dismissed and treated like a crazy person. Except I was right, I've always been right. Minnesota nice doesn't work so I'm going to try New York loud and in your face.

Posted by noen | February 1, 2007 2:34 AM


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