An Unfortunate Episode – Captain Planet and Planeteers: Smog Hog

Captain Planet and the Planeteers (Screen: Turner Broadcasting System)

In this Earth Day edition of An Unfortunate Episode, it’s Captain Planet and the Planeteers vs. Hoggish Greedley and son, a sea serpent and everyday idiots. The power is yours!

Captain Planet and the Planeteers is a mostly terrible show, but there is one good thing about it – the opening sequence thoroughly explains its dopey premise. The narrator begins:

“Our world is in peril. Gaia, the spirit of the Earth, can no longer stand the terrible destruction plaguing our planet. She gives five magic rings to five special young people. From Africa, Kwame with the power of earth. From North America, Wheeler with the power of fire. From the Soviet Union, Linka with the power of wind. From Asia, Gi with the power of water and from South America, Ma-Ti with the power of heart. With the five powers combined they summon earth’s greatest champion – Captain Planet!”

Then all the element-powered kids holler, “Go, Planet!” as a turquoise haired super hero comes shooting out of the ground. “The power is yours!” he calls back. Well if that’s the case, then why do we need you?

The episode opens with recurring villain Hoggish Greedley giving teenage son Junior his birthday gift – a Hummer limo size vehicle with an enormous rear section shaped vaguely like a pig. “This custom built gas guzzler’s got options,” Greedley snorts. Truly, he snorts and grunts like a boar and so does his kid. They’re fat, rich and crass so you’re obligated to hate them. “It’s a convertible.” He presses a button, unveiling the car’s rear end party zone. “It converts into a hot tub. A dance floor with a jukebox.” This is your first hint that laws of physics don’t apply here. Anyway, Junior is geeked. He oinks delightedly, hops in his new ride, revs the engine and peels off, leaving a black exhaust cloud behind.

Greedley’s assistant Rigger – who looks like Dee Snider’s twin cokehead roadie – says, “That’s a real road hog!” then starts coughing and wheezing. Hmm, seems there’s an issue with this vehicle. Oh, no matter. A crowd of idiots runs through the black cloud to beg Greedley for their own gas guzzler, which gives him ideas. He tells Rigger, “We’ll steal a factory and build thousands of these babies!” Rigger replies, “I know just the factory we can hijack.” Well, that worked out nicely.

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  • Aaron Mucciolo

    Man. When you unpack these bits of 90s good-intentions propaganda, they’re… problematic is barely the word.

  • Tara Rose

    Exactly! I get that broadly connecting pollution with evil makes sense when you’re trying to break down these ideas for little kids, but were the rapey overtones really necessary?

    • Maybe it’s a metaphor for how the villains are raping the earth of its natural resources? I assume all the Planeteers are honey vegans.

      • Aaron Mucciolo

        There’s a ‘honey’ comment to be made here that I will not be making.

        A big part of the problem is the broadness – a point that’s twenty years too late regarding a cartoon show with a magical, always-fixes-everything superhero.

        And I loved this show when I was a kid, btw. Just don’t think it would hold up to modern discourse, or my Oberlin education,

  • Tara Rose

    I never watched Captain Planet back in the day (though I caught snippets, maybe when Mike was watching). I guess I figured a show about ecology would be a bit more instructive or scientific. But like you said, Aaron, it’s all magical solutions. I do hope that Junior has magically transformed into a non-rapist once his evil car is removed. That makes sense, right? I’m sure we could experiment IRL with some SUV driving frat boys.