Following hot on the heels of “Beauty and the Beast” and “Sesame Street,” the upcoming “Power Rangers” film is set to make some significant changes to its characters’ backstories.
According to media reports, Trini, the Yellow Ranger, will be coming to terms with her sexual orientation through the course of the film, while Billy, the Blue Ranger, will be on the autism spectrum.
The Hollywood Reporter first reported the news about Trini Monday after interviewing director Dean Israelite. Israelite said the moment Trini’s sexuality is discussed is “small” but “pivotal” for the movie.
“I think what’s great about that scene and what that scene propels for the rest of the movie is, ‘That's OK.’ The movie is saying, ‘That’s OK,’ and all of the kids have to own who they are and find their tribe,” Israelite told the Hollywood Reporter.
In that scene, another character will assume Trini, who is portrayed by Becky G, is having “boyfriend problems” before realizing she is having “girlfriend problems,” per the Reporter.
In the original 1990s television show, the Yellow Ranger was portrayed as straight. At the same time, David Yost, who portrayed the Blue Ranger, left the show because he was harassed and abused by cast and crew members because he is gay, according to Cinema Blend.
While “Power Rangers” will mark the first time a major superhero film features a non-straight protagonist, it will be the second film to open in March based on a beloved ‘90s media property that has a gay character. The live-action remake of the Disney classic “Beauty and the Beast” opened this past weekend and earned $170 million at the box office, one of the biggest openings in Hollywood history.
In the new film, Le Fou, sidekick to the villain Gaston, is also coming to terms with his sexuality. In a brief scene at the end of the movie, he is seen dancing with another man. News of the character’s sexuality was first reported two weeks ago and sparked some controversy, as a theater in Alabama announced it would not show the movie as a result, while Russia gave the film an adults-only rating and Malaysia demanded the specific scene be cut.
Still, any controversy was overshadowed by both the box office success of the film, which also has a positive 70 percent rating on the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes.
Meanwhile, Screen Rant reported Monday afternoon that Billy, the Blue Ranger, will be autistic, or at least on the autism spectrum. In an interview, the actor portraying Billy, RJ Cyler, said he saw the role as an opportunity to positively represent autism on the big screen.
“I actually sat down and shut my mouth and actually just listened and you know, accepted every bit of information with no judgment,” Cyler said about learning about his character. “I knew that it was my job to show, you know, that people that are on the spectrum are just regular people.”
Cyler did not specify how his character’s autism will be introduced or addressed in the film.
On Sunday night, the long-running children’s television show “Sesame Street” also announced it would introduce its first ever autistic character, in hopes of educating kids on the developmental disability and teaching them how to interact with other children who have it.
On social media, fans were to quick to praise the news.