Anyone who thinks two-year-olds are too young to be influenced by television and marketing should visit the Franklin Square Child Care Center in a modest neighborhood of Boston. Among toddlers there, the reigning status symbol in recent months has been Power Rangers underwear, proudly displayed to classmates and teachers.
Cute? Perhaps. But Debra Florence, head teacher at the center, also uses another word to describe the strong appeal the Power Rangers have: ''sad.'' The karate-chopping plots, she explains, teach even the youngest children violence.
''The kids act out Power Rangers every day through play - the motions, the kicks, the hits, the sounds,'' she says. ''When we mention it to the parents they'll say, 'Oh yes, I buy them the toys, and they watch the TV show.' ''
Beginning this week, children can also watch ''Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie.'' For adults who wouldn't know a Power Ranger from the Lone Ranger, the plot revolves around teenage superheroes forever fighting the forces of evil. Good prevails, but not without ferocious battles, and not before parents become helpless in the hands of evil monster Ivan Ooze.
Midway through the film, one of Ivan's henchmen walks through town giving children an irresistible handout: free jars of a purple slime called Ooze. He urges, ''Take it home in boxes,/ Take it home in cases,/ If your parents try to stop you/ Just throw it in their faces.''
As it happens, Ooze brainwashes parents. It seems a fitting parallel to what's happening in real life, where many parents are bowing to the enticements of entertainment producers and licensers who throw endless Ooze-like products in people's faces.
At an 8 p.m. suburban showing of the movie last Sunday, the audience included a distressing number of two-, three-, and four-year-olds. Aside from the obvious question - Why aren't these tots in bed? - there was another puzzle: Why are they here, watching a movie some educators say should be off-limits to three-to-six-year-olds?