Somewhere nestled into your memories, maybe sandwiched between the time you walked in on your parents smooching with another set of parents and the time you learned that Santa hates communists, is the '90s cartoon series Captain Planet and the Planeteers. You remember that one, right? It was the show where a bunch of kids fought anti-environmentalist nutjobs by doing jack shit for 20 minutes before then spending the remaining two minutes calling on a superhuman blue guy to fix everything. (Somewhere in there is a metaphor about our modern-day environmental strategy, but far be it for me to figure out what that is.) Then, at the end of the episode, they'd tell you why recycling is essential.
It was quality entertainment as far as kids' educational programming was concerned, and that's in part because Captain Planet was never afraid to dive mullet first into the absurdity of its own premise. But there's one episode of Captain Planet that takes that absurdity and elevates it to an atomic level. I'm talking, of course, about the time Captain Planet fought Hitler. Also, for whatever reason, Hitler has a Fu Manchu mustache.
But, otherwise, he's totally Hitler.
It's always a strange move whenever a kid's show chooses to render the world's most famed genocidal dictator in cartoon form, but it's an exceptionally strange move for a show like Captain Planet whose other villains, up until this point, were entirely fictional eco-terrorists. Yes, it's horrible that some guy named Looten Plunder is killing elephants for their ivory, but it's kind of dwarfed in context compared to a fascist who killed 6 million Jews in concentration camps. It's also confusing messaging when you consider that Hitler and the Nazi regime had various environmentalist stances, but we'll just leave that alone for now because this is only going to get weirder. (Here's the episode below if you'd like to watch it in full.)
The episode is titled "A Good Bomb Is Hard To Find" because what better way to introduce your child to the topic of nuclear warfare than with a pun? It starts off with Dr. Blight, one of the main antagonists from the series, building a time portal to bring her future self to the present. Future Blight arrives and tells Present Blight about their inevitable reality in which "there's hardly ever a decent war, people store old nuclear waste securely, and a good bomb is hard to find." (There's the title!) So the two set off to steal plutonium to make a nuclear bomb and then travel back in time to sell that bomb to Hitler to further amplify a nuclear arms race. Note: They're not going to just give Hitler the bomb. They have to sell it to him in an auction for some reason. I guess even when it comes to nuclear armageddon, capitalism takes precedent.
The Planeteers follow the Blights back in time to stop them and eventually arrive at Kransberg Castle (which Hitler used as a military base because we want the audience to really be certain that this is Hitler) in time for the auction. At first, Hitler seems willing to pay over 75 million Deutsch marks for the nuclear bomb, but, in a total Hitler move, "the Fuhrer" decides to arrest everyone involved, including the Blights and the Planeteers, and then take the bomb for free.
And, uh, you have to give credit to Hitler here. It was a pretty dogshit plan by the Blights that he took full advantage of. Why would you hold the auction inside of Hitler's military stronghold? Why would the other foreign leaders agree to come along? Did they think they could just outbid Hitler for a nuclear bomb and then be allowed to leave with it? "Thanks for hosting the bomb auction, Hitler. Don't be mad when I use this against you later."
It doesn't matter because before we have time to contemplate this situation's stupidity, Future Dr. Blight trips and falls on to the bomb, arming it with a one-minute countdown. So the Planeteers summon Green Party Superman to save the day, and he almost does without a problem, until Hitler glares at him.
This sends him stumbling backward because you see, "hatred is just as toxic as any other pollutant," and one look from Hitler packs enough toxic hate to make Captain Planet drop some fertilizer in his pants. Then, he's fine, and he flies that rocket off to space because "fuck space," there surely won't be any fallout from launching nuclear missiles up into there.
But the weirdest part of this tale has to be the very end as, before the Blights escape back to the present, one of them drops their notebook outlining how to create a nuclear bomb. This is then picked up by an American soldier who says, "better get this to our science boys. It could be important." It really feels like Captain Planet is implying that these were the plans that led to the atomic bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Again, this is heavy stuff for your third grader to take in, but it's even more disturbing once you consider that one of the characters gives a note to a soldier, asking him to warn her family about a minefield. So we're cool with altering the past, and we're not cool with nuclear weapons, but we are cool with nuclear weapons so long as they're used on the Japanese? And what about stopping the Holocaust?
None of this is answered, but we are left with two "Planeteer Alert" PSAs at the end of the episode, one about working together, the other about teenage gun violence. These also don't explain why Captain Planet didn't stop World War II or if the left-behind atomic plans from the future gave "Fat-Man" and "Little-Boy" extra destructive power. Still, we do know that gun violence in the '90s is "no longer limited to the inner-city," so at least we learned something.
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Top Image: TBS