The No. 1-rated children's TV show in the United States has been taken off the air in Norway, Sweden and Denmark after a young girl's brutal killing renewed debate on the causes of violence.
The "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" has not been directly linked to the death of 5-year-old Silje Marie Redergard, who froze to death Saturday on a playground in Trondheim after a game with three boys her age turned ugly.But the Scandinavian network TV-3 moved quickly Tuesday to drop the popular show. And the prime minister, Gro Harlem Brundtland, said Norwegians should think twice before allowing such "free market" violence to be broadcast by commercial networks.
Nobody - not even Silje's mother - seems to put the blame on the three boys who reportedly stoned and kicked their playmate then left her to freeze in the first snow of the season. The children - two age 6 and one 5 - are too young to be charged with any crime under Norwegian law.
"I forgive the ones who killed my daughter," Beathe Redergard told the Oslo newspaper Dagbladet. "It is not possible to hate small children. They can't understand the consequences of what they have done."
On Tuesday, the site where Silje died was littered with flowers and candles left by stunned Norwegians.
At first, the boys blamed three older youths seen near the area. According to the Oslo newspaper Verdens Gang, one boy claimed he chased away the teenagers after he "kicked one of them in the leg until he bled, just like the Ninja Turtles."
All four children reportedly were fans of the U.S. cartoon, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles." Like the "Power Rangers," the show centers on likable characters who pummel their opponents with fists and weapons.
"Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" is a syndicated live-action series featuring six teens who metamorphose into armor to battle evil dinosaurs and alien monsters. According to media reports, the small boys persuaded Silje to take off her outer clothes during a game, then said they were going to be "bad" to her.
Police have declined to give details of the attack. A preliminary autopsy showed that Silje froze to death.
Some Norwegians recalled that the two English boys who killed 2-year-old James Bulger in Liverpool last year were believed inspired by the violent movie "Childs Play 3."
Reacting quickly, the Swedish-owned TV-3, decided to suspend broadcasts of "Power Rangers" on Tuesday.
"It is a result of the debate that has been going on," said spokesman Morten Brusletto. "We will set up an expert group - outside experts - to look at the matter and then we will decide what to do with the `Power Rangers.' "
The Swedish television network TV-2 also suspended broadcast of "The Edge," a 13-part animated program about violence.
Prime Minister Brundtland said "violence on the screen (could) possibly become violence on the retinas of even small children."
"If you go by the research literature, there is a risk to kids from shows like these," said psychologist Jerome Singer of the Yale Family Television Research Center in New Haven, Conn.
"The research data consistently point to the fact that children who watch violent or aggressive material, material that's relatively realistic and imitatable, on television or videos, are more likely to be aggressive afterwards," Singer said.
Concerns about violent programs have changed the way U.S. television presents it. The networks have reduced the violent content of prime-time series and routinely air advisories before shows with violent themes.
But some experts cautioned against drawing quick parallels.
"There's no way that clinical or criminal responsibility can be attached to a storyteller, regardless of the story," said Dr. George Gerbner, former dean of the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania.
Many in this Nordic country of 4.3 million people appear to see all four children as victims.