Superheroes: Power Rangers- Kat and Kimberly

Screenshot of Catherine Sutherland in ‘Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers’. Copyright goes to Saban.

Hi! It’s Annie!

I’ve talked a little bit about Kat and Kimberly in my post about favorite ‘Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers’ characters to wear the multi-colored suits. But this conversation is one of the most intense in an otherwise not-all-that-intense fandom. After all, ‘Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers’ has always been the more wholesome and lighthearted of the superhero shows. Unless you’re talking about the comics, of course. There are so many people who don’t like Kat and many others who feel as though Kat might have connected to them more than even Kimberly did. And with Kimberly having been in the series for so long, Kat’s appearance was met with a lot of pushback. Some of which still comes through today. So I’m going to talk about each character and why the transition from Kimberly to Kat probably made the situation worse for everyone.

Kimberly:

I’ve seen opinions on Kimberly change more and more as the years have gone on. And part of that is because of the changing conversations on women in superhero shows. Kimberly was a superhero herself. She wasn’t just a love interest. She kicked ass and she embraced her femininity through it as well. But Kimberly definitely wasn’t a perfect character either. She was often damselled, especially after Tommy came in, so that other characters could save her. The yellow rangers weren’t often damselled in this way, and though Kimberly got herself out of a fair few kidnappings, there were also times where she had to be saved. And the simple fact that it was always Kimberly who was the one kidnapped said enough. On top of this, each of the members of the original ‘Mighty Morphin’ team were initially introduced as giant stereotypes. And while all of them shed the stereotypes to various degrees, it is no secret that Kimberly shed the stereotype less than many of the others. Her stereotype was also one of the most harmful, with the typical valley girl persona and the constant jabs at how much she loved to shop. The show even made a point of saying several times that her favorite thing was shopping and that she did it every day. Kimberly had a lot of good qualities too, don’t get me wrong. Kimberly is shown to be very caring and sweet, often solving most problems having to do with empathy. She is also used to introduce audiences to more inclusive ways of thinking. But many people look back at her and don’t find her completely relatable. I have to admit to being one of those people. Because Kimberly is a typical media popular girl character, she can feel like a difficult role model to live up to or completely relate to. But she was the original badass and kind pink ranger, and I think that’s still a huge accomplishment.

Kat:

Kat’s introduction was actually really smart and one of my favorite introductions to a new ranger. We already had the introduction of Tommy as an evil ranger, and I don’t necessarily think that we needed that again. But that wasn’t necessarily the introduction of Kat. She was a spy sent by Rita who not always took the form of an actual human and it was actually her saving Kimberly that broke the spell. Meaning, her very first act was to save herself. And Kat’s run as a ranger featured virtually no damselling. In fact, Kat’s run featured the pink ranger taking more of a leadership position within the team. I wrote a little about Kat before, and I chose Kimberly over her in ‘Mighty Morphin’, but overall I found Kat to be more relatable. She was more introverted and soft spoken at first and slowly got used to the people around her. She was kind but nervous and she showed her femininity without having to shop every day to prove it. But her personal stories were where Kat really shined as a character. Though I don’t really recommend watching Turbo, Kat had an entire storyline that addressed things like body image insecurity. And Kat in Zeo took over most of the ranger duties while Tommy recovered from his break-up. Most of Kimberly’s storylines had to do with things like bad hair days, which were fine but often didn’t focus on as serious topics as the boys. The boys often had storylines revolving around things like working together and dealing with insecurities. But even though Kat got better character development in the end, it did take a while to get there. Especially with the rocky start of trying to force Kat in Kimberly’s old positions. They gave Kat ballet instead of gymnastics, but they really did force a relationship between Tommy and Kat. Eventually it was a relationship I came to like, but it was always unneeded. Jason David Frank said that he wished that the show would have focused on another male character for relationships, and I can’t help but think that would have been a better idea if they wanted another romance. They also immediately made Kat Aisha’s best friend because Kimberly was, even though they had no previous history. But Kat has always been relatable to me in a way that Kimberly never was. And I don’t think she deserved quite the hate that she got for replacing Kimberly. She did start out as more of a blank slate inserted into places she shouldn’t have been, but she really found her place in Zeo and she’s definitely one of my favorite overall pink rangers.

Second Ranger Syndrome:

Sometimes it can be difficult for second rangers in the ‘Mighty Morphin’ series to get recognition. As someone who has had Adam as one of my favorite Power Rangers since I was a kid, it felt odd when people wouldn’t acknowledge that there were any rangers not part of the original team. Adam arguably had one of the best character arcs, from insecure and unsure about who he was, to second in command and a potential leader. And he was also one of the most supportive rangers, as shown in the episode where he encouraged Tanya to break up with her unsupportive boyfriend and told her that she deserved to be treated better. (Can we have more men written like this, please?) Aisha and Rocky were also amazing characters who deserve more recognition. But Kat has been the only character to receive such a negative reaction for coming into the team, and I think that Kat was just as good if not better than Kimberly. Part of that is because as the years went on the writers actually responded to complaints about stereotyping with character personalities and ranger colors (such as the initial accidental assigning of Trina and Zack’s ranger colors). Kimberly was such an amazing start, but I think we can also acknowledge the improvements in the writing, even if the writing changes weren’t always improvements. But that doesn’t mean that the second rangers are completely better than the originals, or that the originals are worse because the writing hadn’t caught up yet. Still, it was nice to see characters and character development that were less dragged down by the stereotyping that existed in the first season.

The first and second rangers are always compared. And I don’t necessarily mean to compare them because they all have their merits. But I think it’s ok to admit that the second rangers have their high points even if they didn’t start off the series. And Kat deserves to be seen in a positive light even if she did replace a fan favorite character. Because she became a fan favorite character herself. I love Kat and she needs recognition for all the important topics that her character covered and the steps she took for all female rangers after her.

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

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