Tooncrap #29 - Captain Planet: A Formula For Hate

The Infamous AIDS Episode. Hoo Boy!
Turner: 1992

Written by: Raymond Gallant

Let's travel back to the early 90's. Crystal Pepsi, Sega Genesis, and some of the best cartoons ever made.... And some of the more mediocre. A good example of that is Captain Planet. While most cartoons at the time were glorified toy commercials, this one was something much more devious....
A glorified PSA.

Captain Planet and the Planeteers was essentially a 20+ minute statement on the turmoil that the planet was in. Everything from the O-Zone, oil spills, the destruction of rain forests and wetlands, to things that have so much to do with that premise, like gang wars, the conflict between Protestant Irish and Catholic Irish, and in the case of our induction du jour, the HIV virus.

Yep, Captain Planet and the Planeteers had an Aids episode. Wrap that around your head for a while.

Now, before I get into this, just know that I am not mocking anybody with HIV. It is a serious disease, and I feel bad for anybody suffering from it, or who have died from it. What I am intending to do, is focus on what is perhaps the oddest route for any episode of a kids cartoon to go. While the disease was still relatively new to most people in the early 90's, it just seems that a cartoon starring a big blue guy with green hair, wearing a speedo isn't exactly the best way of teaching us about this disease to kids.

So, let's talk about the show itself. The premise is that the planet is in peril due to us mucking it up. Gaia, the spirit of the Earth, can no longer stand the destruction plaguing our planet. Why she had to wait so damn long though is beyond me. She sends 5 magic rings to 5 special young people.

Kwame, representing Africa. The leader of the group, and usually the most serious of the bunch. He has the power of Earth.

Next up is Wheeler, representing America. He's your essential "Brooklyn goofball" character, and considered the comic relief of our happy go lucky group.

From the Soviet U... I mean Eastern Europe is Linka. The standard "tough chick who likes the goofball douche". She has the power of wind.

Next is Asia's representative, Gi. Nobody gives a shit about Gi. She has the water power.

And finally there's perhaps the most infamous member of the group, South America's Ma-Ti. He has the power of Heart. Not lightning, or ice, or grass, or anything actually cool. He has the power of frigging heart. And what, prey, does heart do? Let's him talk to the animals, and communicate with the other Planeteers.


Yep, 5 kids from 5 continents are the only hopes to save the planet. I'd say Australia, Antarctica, and the rest of the continents would feel shunned by not being part of the planeteers, but considering how dumb this toon is, I think they can count their lucky stars for that. When the planeteers combine their magic rings, they summon Captain Planet, Earth's greatest protector....

And its least fashion conscious. I mean, what the hell? The blue skin is fine, but the green hair, the exposed midriff, the speedo? He looks like Superman's fashion blind cousin.

Captain Planet's abilities are never fully defined. They're simply more of a deus ex machina for whatever the occasion may be. But with every hero there must be an Achilles heel. In the case of the cap, his weakness is dirt and grime. If he gets covered in oil, or smog, he's done like dinner. But once the crap's off him, he's ready to get back in the game and kick pollution's ass.

The show saw over 100+ episodes, and 6 seasons, surpassing most animated shows, even in the 90's. It also got a plethora of major Hollywood names to voice the heroes and villains of the show. Whoopi Goldberg, Michelle Pheiffer, Jeff Goldblum, Tim Curry (But seriously what the hell cartoon wasn't he in during the 90's?), and many more. The show definitely had strong backing for it, despite honestly not being the greatest show ever.

So, let's get into the episode of choice. Like I said, the majority of the plots focused on the environment, and those worked. What didn't work are plots that were outside its norm, and this episode is definitely no exception to that. It's called "A Formula For Hate", and may contain the stupidest supervillain idea in animated history. But let's not beat around the bush any longer. Let's review this thing.

We open our episode as the Planeteers learn that our villain of the day, Verminous Skumm, has broken into a doctor's office, and takes pictures of some medical files. Our Planeteers waste little time and head to the town of undefined where this incident took place Meanwhile, at a local high school, a basketball game is in progress, as a kid named Todd Andrews dominates the game, winning it for his team.

Meanwhile in attendance is Skumm and his crony, using the Ninja Turtle disguise method of trench coat and fedora. He grabs Todd, which creeps the ever loving crap out of the young lad. Later that night, Todd and his friends talk about how he's destined for a top scholarship because he's a god of the basketball court, and how one day he'll turn heel on Cleveland to join Miami.

Todd's mother shows up to remind him of a doctor's appointment later. Cut to the next day, where Todd learns that he's HIV positive. The doctor informs Todd and his mother on the possible ways of contracting HIV, including saying "unprotected sex". I know that's one of the ways, but wow. How many other kids shows have ever gotten away with the words "unprotected sex"? Also, how many kids in the age demo even know what sex is?

Meanwhile, at Skumm's sewer lair, Skumm uses a photocopier to make dozens of posters of Todd's face, with the word "AIDS!" in bold red letters. Skumm's master plan is to let the cat out of the bag about Todd's ailment, causing the town to go into a state of widespread panic. That's the big plan. To show how ignorant, cruel, and moronic the human race is. No big world domination plot, just make people treat a kid with HIV like crap.

Skumm's a dumbass. Or at least a villain with not much of a real goal in life.

Meanwhile the Burger King Kid's Club... I mean, the Planeteers, are still trying to find Skumm, while Todd is concerned about his future. But it's inspirational black coach to the rescue, as he tries to cheer Todd up. The Planeteers eventually find Skumm, who leads them into his sewer lair, and uses a gun that shoots restraints on them. He leaves them to drown as he is off to exact his "greatest plan ever". But since Wheeler has his ring hand free, he uses it to blast a hole in the wall, which frees them As they head off to face Skumm, he's already busy telling the entire school of Todd's ailment.

Because a creepy man in a trench coat seems like such a reliable source.

But sadly, it works, as the rest of the kids begin to treat Todd like crap. But hey, their just kids, and kids are stupid. It's not like the adults are gonna... Oh who the hell am I kidding?

The adults are out for blood. Hell, even Todd's little brother gets the crap kicked out of him. The Planeteers arrive as the town is destroying everything They try their best to stop the unruly mob. Todd takes this time to run away in a canoe (?), and heads to an abandoned shack. He falls asleep, and has a messed up dream with everyone shunning him some more. He wakes up, and decides that he's going to put a stop to this insanity once and for all. The Planeteers summon Captain Planet, who takes Todd to the basketball game.

And at the game, as expected, the crowd is once again in a lynching mood at the sight of Todd, but it's time for the Captain to set them straight. He and the coach tell the crowd the truth about HIV, and that Todd's the same person he always was. This instantly causes a face turn for the entire town, who decide to let him play. Hold on, they're ready to kill the kid with HIV, but have zero problems with the flying blue guy with the green hair?

This town can eat my ass.

So Todd plays in the game, and Skumm gets arrested. The End.

This episode is just rather dumb. While the subject matter is definitely a serious one, prejudice, it's just so poorly handled. Even for a cartoon, I find it hard to believe an entire town would go insane and bloodthirsty over a kid with HIV, and that the only people with any logic are the doctor, the coach, and todd's family. This episode also suffers from what I like to call "guest starring the main character" syndrome, where the episode focuses more on a non-main or recurring character, and the regulars playing bit parts at best. Finally, how does this help Skumm take over the world? What, does he like get control of the town while they're all lynching a sick kid? I just don't get it. It may be on a serious subject, but it still deserves to be considered Tooncrap.

But it could be worse, I guess. It's not like Captain Planet was taking on the Nazis or anything...