Tooncrap #29 - Captain Planet: A Formula For
The Infamous AIDS Episode. Hoo Boy!
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
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
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
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
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
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
But it could be worse, I guess. It's not like Captain Planet was taking
on the Nazis or anything...