Can We Please Not Have a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Culture War?

I don't ask a lot. I don't really ask anything. Absurdities come and go. I roll with what I can and let the rest fade away. We're similar in that regard, aren't we? We won't agree on everything, but we're adults who ultimately respect each others' tastes and accept — resentfully or not — that in this destabilized, hyper-reductive cinematic climate, even such fare as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot has a place in our culture. It's big enough for all of us! So with this in mind, and in light of the vicious media sparring currently underway among the TMNT establishment, can we please, please just lay down our nunchucks and let this skirmish go?

To wit, can we please not make an international incident out of producer Michael Bay's context-free acknowledgement that "[t]hese turtles are from an alien race, and they are going to be tough, edgy, funny and completely lovable"? Judging by the fan reaction, you'd think that Bay proposed changing the heroes to rabbits or literally stomped on a live turtle in the middle of the Nickelodeon upfronts.

And to that point, can we please no longer spotlight the bottom-feeding likes of Robbie Rist, who provided the voice of Michaelangelo in the original live-action TMNT films and who inveighed against Bay [via TMZ, of course]:

"You probably don't know me but I did some voice work on the first set of movies that you are starting to talk about sodomizing. [...] I know believing in mutated talking turtles is kinda silly to begin with but am I supposed to be led to believe there are ninjas from another planet? The rape of our childhood memories continues ... "

And to that point, can we please institute a moratorium on vaguely public figures comparing the contemporary adaptation of past glories to "rape," "sodomizing," and other terms of sexual violence? Just as nobody assaulted Vertigo against its will — despite Kim Novak's hair-raising protestations otherwise — Michael Bay is not thinking about or even capable of penetrating TMNT's anus or anyone's "childhood memories." For the record, neither TMNT nor our childhood memories have anuses to penetrate, forcibly or otherwise. This is an increasingly reckless, facile and fairly reprehensible analogy that the press nevertheless plays along with instead of suugesting a more appropriate alternative word for the act compromising a renowned legacy. How about "Lucas," perhaps? E.G.: "Michael Bay had better not Lucas the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, or I'll be pissed." "Aliens? But that Lucases everything." Etc., etc. Now that's a vision from which even Bay would recoil.

And to that point, can we please step back from utterly unwinnable culture wars that make Bay look like the reasonable one? From a message-board dispatch by Bay himself:

"Fans need to take a breath, and chill. They have not read the script. Our team is working closely with one of the original creators of Ninja Turtles to help expand and give a more complex back story. Relax, we are including everything that made you become fans in the first place. We are just building a richer world."

"A richer world"! Imagine! Put your weapons down! Or at least aim them at a graver travesty.

[via THR]

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  • The Winchester says:

    But if we don't go on about this, we have to talk about how much John Carter is going to cost Disney for another 3 days!

    That just can't happen. We need fresh blood of things to yell about until Hunger Games comes out and we have to talk about how Ross Lucased the book, or continue to compare it to Twilight and/or Battle Royale. (When we should really be comparing it to The Running Man, but whatever).

  • Andrew says:

    I hate phrases like "raped my childhood" more than you can possibly know...but changing them from Mutant Turtles into Space Aliens really isn't that different than making them rabbits or something equally stupid.

    It's a sign that there's no respect for the IP or the fans who, yes, probably care way too much about a silly comic book/cartoon, but still care.

    And the Lucas thing...Star Wars and Indiana Jones are completely Lucas' to mess up. So it's not fitting. If Michael Bay was one of the creators of TMNT it would be an appropriate, but he wasn't, so it's not.

    • S.T. VanAirsdale says:

      All I'm saying is we're basing all this outrage on one brief, vague statement. I don't begrudge fans their interests at all; I just begrudge zealotry and overreaction for no especially defensible reason.

      • Maggie says:

        Normally I would agree but Michael Bay already screwed up Transformers. He wouldn't know what a "complex back story" was if it hit him in the face.

        • John F. says:

          Not just Transformers, What about Pearl Harbor? He had dyslexic and studdering Air Corps (Force) pilots, given physicals by Navy Nurses and holding a sequence of posts that never could have happened, and That was history he "Lucased" (happy now?). He ignored factual events; what will he do to someone else's story?

          I see two camps here. Those who don't want this, and those who don't care. If the history doesn't matter to you, then get out of the way of the people to whom it does.

          For perspective; I wouldn't care much if your car was stolen, but it's matter to you a lot. Should I tell you to get over it?

          • S.T. VanAirsdale says:

            I wouldn't care much if your car was stolen, but it's matter to you a lot. Should I tell you to get over it?

            Once again, we're comparing brief comments about a film that nobody has seen (and hasn't even been produced) to actual statutory crimes against people or property. This is not a rational argument.

            Pearl Harbor being Lucased, however, is totally, totally rational.

  • Turtle Fan says:

    Another stupid journalist who doesn't know s£&t

    Get off your stupid self righteous pedestal read the comic and then go £&@" yourself for your atrocious article

    Bay is a childhood rapist and your just a c&@t

  • dukeroberts says:

    Robbie Rist raped my childhood by his mere presence as Cousin Oliver on The Brady Bunch.

  • dukeroberts says:

    Also, Robbie Rist was about 20 years old when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were even created. Just to whose childhood is he referring?

  • Dudesoft says:

    So... Are they the Teenage Alien Ninja Turtles now?

    • Jack Knive says:

      It is pretty bad that both Ninjitsu and Turtles are certainly only terrestrtial in origin.

      And while I will buy that there might be a teenage period for an alien creature, or that it could be a mutant form of its species... well two out of four ain't half bad, I guess.

      It's kinda like that time that Godzilla got re-imagineered as an island komodo lizard or whatever it was...

      Sigh. It really isn't just the recognizability of the brand name as a cultural touchstone that these folks are paying for when they buy the rights. But as long as the opening weekend is there, they'll never have to be bothered to realize that story continuity is what built these brands to begin with...

  • Jack Knive says:

    Oh, please. Everyone knows the Ninja turtles are right wing crypto-fascists... oh, wait-- is that not the culture war you are referring to?

    We wouldn't want these issues to splinter the fan base, or, you know, put our childhood memories through a shredder or anything...

    I hope it gets released in April...

    Ok, I'll stop 🙂

  • Yashar says:

    After reading this article, I somehow feel "Lucas"ing something is worse than raping it.

    I know, rape is truly terrible and agree that pretty much every use of the word in modern discussions about "my body of work", "my memories" and "my childhood" are insulting but seriously... Bay is gonna "Lucas" the TMNT!? That sounds even scarier!

  • Reasonable Villain says:

    "And to that point, can we please institute a moratorium on vaguely public figures comparing the contemporary adaptation of past glories to "rape," "sodomizing," and other terms of sexual violence? Just as nobody assaulted Vertigo against its will — despite Kim Novak's hair-raising protestations otherwise — Michael Bay is not thinking about or even capable of penetrating TMNT's anus or anyone's "childhood memories."

    Here is a reasonable response why are taking a statement meant to be taken metaphorically and turned it into something literal? If you really want to express your outrage of the word "rape" being used then it should towards other subjects. Like people who claim a person on date who tries to convince their date to sleep with them is literal equivalent to rape.

  • MadDawg says:

    I initially had the gut reaction of "OMG WTF ARE YOU DOING MICHAEL BAY?!?". Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has been a constant love/obsession of mine. I've even seen the musical they did (which was AWFUL, but hey, a fan's gotta do). The whole point of the story is: "They were mutated by ooze after being 4 normal baby turtles". It is the established canon that has been the basis of the story since its inception. How Michael Bay is going to turn them into Aliens, I don't know, but the idea really really bugs me. Even if they work with Laird or Eastman, adding some legitimacy to it, you're still changing over a decade of Ninja Turtle-dom. We've all SEEN the story, we don't need more storylines or plot points, or a change in their origin, we need character development, which is the only thing that saved TMNT 2007 from being fairly bland. For heavens sake, give us a Mikey growing up story, or SOMEthing.
    Also, Michael Bay IS famous for big explosions and terrible plot lines.
    I feel like Transformers fans would have reacted very negatively if he suddenly said they were created by an evil scientist on Earth, and weren't actually from Outer Space.

    ALL THIS BEING SAID: I haven't seen the script, I don't know what he's going to do, and hey, it could even be good. But I'm not holding my breath, and I will most definitely not be going to the midnight showing (which is a tradition of mine). If this movie sucks, they WILL NOT get my money.
    Also...I feel like it Michael Bay was a real Turtle fan (which is what the person producing something with this much history should be), he wouldn't be doing this...

  • Yojimbo says:

    Oh S.T., I hate the fact that I have to make this point but - thank you for writing this, it's all totally correct, and bulk of the other comments break my cast-iron geeky heart.

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