Captain Planet and the Planeteers was an animated series that ran for six seasons between 1990 and 1996. The concept behind the series was that Gaia, the spirit of Earth, recruits four teenagers and one young boy to help her save the world. She gives each of the teenagers a special ring that gives them control over one of the four elemental forces of the planet (Earth, Water, Wind and Fire) and the young boy gets a ring that has the power of heart. They are then sent to defeat villains who seek to pollute the planet. Whenever they get into more trouble than they can handle, they use their five rings to combine powers and summon Captain Planet, a superhero driven by the force of the planet itself!
The cartoon was a well-meaning series that tried to teach kids about environmentalism and anti-pollution solutions. It was also very, very much of its time. Thus, when you combine the very dated nature of the show and the general oddity kids’ programming exhibits anyhow, and add a dash of modern internet sensibilities (or indeed lack thereof), you get a delicious list of memes busting the chops of the show in retrospect. Just remember, everyone, the power is YOURS!
15. INTERESTING POINT, LET’S MULLET OVER
While the humble mullet clearly points to a specific decade, it also generally speaks to a particular type of person. In the early 1990s, the most famous celebrity mullet was almost certainly Billy Ray Cyrus, of “Achy Breaky Heart” fame, which briefly made “country line dancing” cool in the 1990s. Although, to be fair, the 1990s also made the “Macarena” a popular dance craze for a time. Look, the 1990s were weird, okay?
In other words, a phrase you wouldn’t often think of about a person with a mullet in the early 1990s was “a multi-cultural group of friends,” and yet that’s precisely what the Planeteers were all about, as they came from all different parts of the world. Of all of the outlandish things about this show, in retrospect, this may be the weirdest of all… or maybe just the funniest.
14. BRANCHING OUT
In 2011, Funny Or Die decided to make a short film based on rumors at the time of a possible Captain Planet live action movie. They cast some notable young actors as the Planeteers (including Brenda Song, Gillian Jacobs and Efren Ramirez — “Pedro” from Napoleon Dynamite — as Ma-Ti) and movie star Don Cheadle as Captain Planet.
However, the short film took the approach of some other memes you’ll see later on this list, about how Captain Planet, taken to the extreme, could be very, very scary. In this film, he just starts turning humans into trees, warning people at the end to treat the environment well, or he’ll turn you into a tree. It was followed by three other short films showing Captain Planet’s descent into power madness, until he is finally killed by woodpeckers and the world happily went back to polluting.
13. THAT’S QUITE A GLOBE THERE
Let’s face it, in the world of animated children’s programming, the budgets typically are not that big. Rare is the cartoon like Batman: The Animated Series, where the priority was making the cartoon look as good as possible and not “get it done as cheaply as possible.” Captain Planet had a better budget than most, and the brilliant Will Meugniot made it look great… for the most part.
However, the one area where almost no show pays that much attention to are backgrounds, and in the case of Captain Planet, as you can see, they didn’t even bother to make sure that the globe actually was a realistic globe and not what appeared to be some alien planet. Then again, some people helpfully argued, “Well, he’s called Captain Planet, not Captain Earth.” That’s even more disconcerting!
12. THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE!
Another very popular meme about Captain Planet is a variation on this one above, which smartly points out the similarities with the kids from the acclaimed PBS cartoon series, The Magic School Bus. That show, of course, followed a third grade class that goes on adventures with their teacher in the titular magical school bus, which, when the kids get into it, could shrink, fly into outer space and all sorts of other amazing things that help it educate the students. Maybe we’re actually being generous, because these kids are basically tiny versions of the Planeteers.
Therefore, the theory is that they were the Planeteers when they were younger. Of course, that doesn’t make any real sense (especially since Ma-Ti isn’t the same age as the other kids). However, it is a fun bit nonetheless, especially if you include one theory, which suggests that the whole Magic School Bus show was a virtual reality program created by Gaia to teach the Planeteers.
11. BABY, YOU’RE A FIREWORK
Perhaps the most amusing thing about the Planeteers is that, besides Wheeler, they are just so adorably earnest. Like the show itself, the majority of the Planeteers were just so into their Planeteer mission that they often came off as the sort of kids you’d never want to be friends with because their earnestness was just too much to handle.
Linka, the Planeteer from the Soviet Union (and then Eastern Europe later in the series when the Soviet Union fell apart), also showed her earnestness with her love for her keyboard. This meme teases her enthusiasm a bit by showing her rocking out to the Kart Perry song, “Firework,” only sung in her thick accent. The meme also serves to make fun of overly earnest Katy Perry fans, who dub themselves “KatyCats.”
10. SHARING THE LOVE
Wheeler is probably the most famous member of the Planeteers, being an especially notable example of the “Dumb American” trope. Nearly every episode of Captain Planet revolved around the other Planeteers telling Wheeler that he was a selfish moron, even when he made the occasionally intelligent point. If it came from Wheeler, it was assumed to be stupid. However, the most famous ring of the Planeteers was definitely Ma-Ti’s heart ring, though not always for the best reasons.
This meme uses the power of heart to work like one of those old fashioned store-bought licensed valentines that kids would give out in class, only in this context, instead of the person “hearting” their fellow student, it is “hearting” someone else’s post. This is one of the more practical memes on this list, even if it is poking fun at Ma-Ti.
9. CAN’T BUY ME LOVE
The reason why the heart ring is so famous is because it is seemingly such a weak power compared to the other Planeteers. Linka can create a cyclone, Wheeler can create hellfire, Kwame can cause earthquakes and Gi can create a giant whirlpool, while Ma-Ti can… talk to animals? In actuality, his power is pretty great, but it always did get the short end of the stick from fans.
Thus, there are a lot of memes about how lame the power of heart is, including this popular one that shows Ma-Ti pointing his ring at a bad guy and despairing over the fact that his ring doesn’t actually do anything. Though again, to be fair, it seems as though the power of heart might be able to allow Ma-Ti to control other people telepathically, but he just chooses not to use it in that way… which isn’t doing his rep any favors, either.
8. YA GOTTA HAVE HEART
Of course, this being the internet, for every meme that there exists to make fun of a certain aspect of an old cartoon, there is another that will argue the other side of the issue. It’s basically the internet’s version of Newton’s Third Law, that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Therefore, while many memes make fun of Ma-Ti’s power of heart, other memes defend it.
A particular group that is really into the power of heart are fans of My Little Pony, which often sees its characters solve problems through the same power of heart, or rather, the power of friendship. Of course, in the end, the power of “friendship” is basically the same thing as having the power of “heart,” as they are both rather abstract concepts… and both seen as kind of lame, comparatively speaking.
7. TAKING THINGS TO THE EXTREME
Probably the most popular meme surrounding Captain Planet (to the point where we could just fill this entire list with subtle variations on the same basic idea), is the notion that, if you take the concept of Captain Planet to its logical extreme, Captain Planet might be willing to do whatever it takes to protect the planet… and not you! What if, for example, the biggest threat to the planet was mankind? Would Captain Planet ever kill a human to protect the Earth?
A good deal of memes comically push Captain Planet to that extreme, showing a being who is willing to kill if it means stopping pollution. Another popular meme in this vein shows Captain Planet in his classic pose, only carrying a gun and threatening to kill to protect the planet.
6. A CERTAIN SET OF SKILLS
In one of the coolest sequences in Captain America: Civil War, when Captain America’s team of heroes is fighting against Iron Man’s, the tide is suddenly shifted dramatically when Ant-Man reveals that his size-changing abilities don’t only go from human-size to ant-sized, but that he can turn giant-sized, as well! Now, instead of having the advantage in powers, Iron Man and his team were playing defense out of nowhere.
Iron Man (somewhat jokingly) asked if anyone on his team happened to have any shocking or fantastic abilities that they’d like to disclose at this point. Well, this meme takes that in a bizarre direction by having James Rhodes (played by Don Cheadle) reveal that he is Captain Planet, using a still from the aforementioned Don Cheadle as Captain Planet short film.
5. GOOD ADVICE
Giving Bambi’s mother a run for “person whose death inspires others in classic stories,” Sean Bean has become a master of dying in famous fantasy stories. In the first of The Lord of the Rings films, his character, Boromir, is shocked when he learns of the plan to bring the One Ring back to Mordor to destroy it. As he very calmly (if a bit patronizingly) explains to the others, one does not simply walk into Mordor.
That has become a famous meme, where Boromir explains many other things that “one does not simply do,” including, of course, “one does not simply summon Captain Planet.” Of course, we all know that you need the five Planteer rings to do so, but thanks for the good advice in general, Boromir!
4. CUTTING YOUR LOSSES
A funny type of meme is when you take an image that was intended to be a metaphorical image and pretend that it is literal. For instance, let’s say that there is a cover of a comic book with Batman and Robin riding on top of an American Eagle to support the World War II war bond movement. Obviously, it is just a symbolic drawing, but imagine if you pretended that Batman and Robin were actually riding a giant American Eagle. That’d be pretty bonkers, right?
Similarly, this image of Captain Planet and the Planeteers running in front of the Earth is just a symbol of the series (that they’re here to protect the planet), but if you take it literally, it really does kind of look like they’re running away. This meme takes that idea and, no pun intended, runs with it.
3. THE MULLET STANDS ALONE
Clearly, when looking at Captain Planet and the designs of the show, nothing is more “of its time” than Captain Planet’s famous mullet. Like we mentioned earlier, it positively screams “90s” in a way that few other things do! In a lot of ways, of course, the 1990s are the most recent decade where fashion is so far removed from modern time that simply looking at someone would make you say, “Oh, yeah, that is from the 1990s.” You can’t really do that with something from, say, 2002. Yet.
In this funny meme, someone has edited Captain Planet’s Wikipedia entry so that under his powers and abilities, his mullet is listed right there along with his super-strength, flight and elemental abilities. We like to believe that Captain Planet’s mullet is almost as powerful as Tom Selleck’s mustache… almost.
2. OWNER OF A LONELY HEART
Among the upper echelon of most popular internet memes is “Bad Luck Brian.” It began as an attempt by Kyle Craven to take a ridiculously silly photo for yearbook during high school. The principal forced Craven to take a new photo and to return the original photo, but the night before he and his best friend, Ian Davies, scanned the photo into their computer. A few years later, Davies used the original photo to create a meme about a fictional character known as “Bad Luck Brian.”
Bad Luck Brian has, well, just awful luck. Some examples are, “Falls asleep in class… wet dream” and “Takes up surfing…. hurricane.” Therefore, in the context of Captain Planet and the Planeteers, clearly the worst luck would be if you end up with the power of heart.
1. MAGICAL HAIR
In general, a common form of comedy is to point out hypocritical behavior in others. It is always amusing to say, “Oh yeah? Well, then how come you do this” and point out some sort of hypocritical action. That is definitely the case in this popular meme for Captain Planet.
Naturally, Captain Planet is the king of doing positive things for the environment. This meme, though, suggests that the only way that his hair could possibly stand up on end like this is if it was covered with a ton of hairspray, which, naturally, is not good for the environment. Of course, Captain Planet is a magical being and his hair does not necessarily follow the rules of gravity. But, hey, it’s still a funny meme!
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