With the new and controversial Power/Rangers fan film that dropped this week (which you can read more about here) it seems like everyone is talking about the Power Rangers. For many in my generation who grew up watching the Power Rangers on TV, collecting all the Happy Meal toys and action figures, and going to see them in movie theaters, it’s conjured up feelings of nostalgia. I was about one part horrified after watching it (thinking “what have you done to my childhood heroes?!”) and one part…thrilled and wanted to see more, I guess, because it was crazy! But above all, there was one thing that bothered me about the fan film: Tommy seemed miscast somehow. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that the Power Ranger actors have changed many times, and Katee Sackhoff and James Van Der Beek in their respective roles didn’t bother me one bit; in fact, they did a great job. (And why isn’t Katee Sackhoff in more things?! She’s great!)
But to me, Jason David Frank will ALWAYS be Tommy Oliver, period. No exceptions. He took that character and completely owned it!
When I was a kid, I thought Power Rangers were super cool and amazing, but if you’d asked me about it I would never admit it. I didn’t like people judging me for what I liked when I was a kid. Besides, if the Power Rangers went through all that trouble to keep their identities a secret, then I felt that I should keep my love for them a secret too, somehow; like being a Power Rangers fan was a secret identity in itself.
Little Kid Sarah thought that the original Power Rangers were great, but then the show got infinitesimally better with the addition of Tommy Oliver. The red ranger and the black ranger weren’t all that interesting to me, the pink ranger and yellow ranger were sorta okay and I felt like I had to like them as a fellow girl, and blue ranger was okay, I guess. But the green ranger really spruced things up! He was a crazy martial arts wizard, who was evil at first (honestly, I must have seen these episodes 100 times as a kid but I’m quite fuzzy on the storylines these days), seduces and then dumps Kimberly, messes up Zordon, and in the end ditches his powers (even though he had this super cool gold vest thing! What was he thinking?) And then comes back as the amazing white ranger with a talking saber. To me, he was OBVIOUSLY the most interesting guy in the group!
I think he also had an ongoing romance with Kimberly that Little Kid Sarah wasn’t pleased at all with. I felt that she was nothing more than an idle distraction and that he should focus more on martial arts and saving the world, which are a lot more important than romance!
Something that is really cool about Jason David Frank (henceforth “JDF”) is that he STILL owns the identity of Tommy Oliver. Just take a look at his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/jasondfrank
JDF is about forty now, and to think that one role he was cast in as a nineteen-year old kid that he probably didn’t think much of at the time would completely shape his identity for decades to come is crazy to me. And yet, I guess that’s the way the entertainment industry works, and from the looks of things he’s really made the most of it.
JDF still gives out autographed Green Ranger pictures on his website. He’s actively involved in doing fan film projects, and he’s even developed his own style of martial arts based on his work in Power Rangers, called Toso Kune Do, which could be classified as a type of American Karate. (I am considering trying out his classes out of sheer curiosity, although I have some pretty serious concerns about the safety of doing martial arts training via Skype and without a live instructor in front of me. If I ever do check it out, you will hear about it first here!)
All that aside, one reason that I still have great respect for JDF today is because he’s very conscious and conscientious of what he represents and how great his reach is. He’s said before that he loves doing Power Rangers stuff because he does it for the kids. And in a recent video he posted about the Power/Rangers movie, he mentioned that he was actually approached for the part of Tommy in the film but turned it down after reading the script, saying that he’s really more of a “PG-13 guy” and that he realizes that by being in a film so gritty with the amount of violence and drugs and everything else going on in it, it would not be a good example for the kids who would seek it out as his fans. While it’s true that some of his fans are my age, he was in Power Rangers for quite a long time and since he still actively does fan projects and is even still referenced in recent episodes, and there are young kids who still look up to him and idolize him. He’s clearly thought this through and even though it would have been amazing to see him in the film, he turned it down for the right reason and I just have so much more respect for him because of that.
Jason David Frank, you were my childhood hero because you saved the world in Power Rangers, which I loved. And clearly, you are still a hero today based on what you do and the way you present yourself. I think the film industry and the world are better off because of people like you.