You all remember the old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon from the late 80’s, yeah? Of course you do. Everyone does. Though a few years ago it seemed like it was very en vogue to hate on it because… they used 80’s slang? Man, that’s such a lame complaint, and completely wrong, to boot. The only character who uses excessive slang is Michaelangeo, and it’s surfer slang specifically, because he was characterized as a surfer.
In conclusion, people are stupid.
Anyway, I’ve been watching through each season of classic TMNT lately. Of course, by watching, I mean I have it on in the background while I play Picross or Hyrule Warriors. It’s become something of a pre-bedtime ritual, in fact. My night feels incomplete without an episode or two. While slang isn’t one of them, the show definitely does have its share of problems and other general weirdness. And because I don’t have any more interesting things to write about, here is a list of things that have stood out to me.
- Starting off with a fairly well-known one, there seem to be a lot of situations where one or more of the voice actors are temporarily replaced. And almost never well. This seems to be most prominent in season three (which has roughly seventeen million episodes), but it does still happen on occasion. I don’t know what the show’s production was like, but I suppose that James Avery (Shredder) and Rob Paulsen (Raphael) were probably in pretty high demand back in the day, and I can understand that maybe they had scheduling conflicts here and there that left them unable to fulfil their TMNT duties in favour of something more lucrative. But were Barry Gordon (Donatello) and Pat Fraley (Krang) really that busy? Even I had to Google them to remember their names.
- Michaelangelo may be known mostly for his surfer talk, but that’s never bothered me. What does sort of bug me though, is the way he always puts so much emphasis on the word “pizza.” And the way he enunciates both syllables so strongly. It’s not “PEET-ZAH,” it’s “pizza.” It may be a small thing to pick at, but when every second punch line out of Mikey’s mouth relates to pizza, it starts to grate pretty quickly.
- What is the deal with the Turtles just being “buds” and Splinter nothing more than their sensei? I am not really up on how the relationships were handled in the Mirage comics, but I’ve always appreciated that in subsequent incarnations, Splinter and the Turtles were straight up father and sons, and that their familial bonds were an important part of their characters. It feels so very wrong whenever Splinter calls them “my students” instead of “my sons.”
- Speaking of Splinter, he is… not so great in this show. In all other TMNT continuities, Splinter is basically the ultimate badass, capable of defeating any and all opponents. Here, I suppose he does still carry a bit of martial arts clout, but he comes off as a lot more old and feeble, and I just don’t care about him as much as I do the more modern Splinters. Even crazy extendo-tail Splinter from the current movie franchise.
- April’s scream (which I believe they recorded exactly once and then just used forever) is very annoying.
- Since it’s a current hot topic: the show is definitely on a misogyny see-saw, but leans more on the side of male dominance. April is independent, ambitious, and hard-working. A female character that young girls could really look up to. However, she is constantly getting captured and is basically helpless whenever a villain is around. Irma is exactly the opposite of a good female role model. Kala the Neutrino is probably a fairly capable lady, what with being a rebel fighting against Krang’s forces, but she shows up so seldom (and never on her own) that we don’t know a lot about her other than that she is a hip teenager. That’s basically it for female characters. Very rarely is there is a one-off girl mutant/villain, and usually they are easily manipulated by the men that surround them.
- The show is very clearly set in New York City, yet no character ever utters the name. It’s always “the city” this and “the city” that. We know that the show is supposed to exist in the real world, as other real locations are mentioned by name, and there are a number of jabs at New Jersey. So it really stands out as strange that they refuse to acknowledge the city’s name.
- I blame the 80’s entirely for this one, but any music that is not the main theme or a variant of the main theme is so bad. And there is a pool of maybe five or six themes, so you’re constantly hearing the same awful music. Plus one or two commercial break stings that they use in every single episode.
- Lastly, I found it more than a little grating that every single episode of season 2 and 3 focused on Krang and Shredder trying to find a power source to get the Technodrome out of Dimension X/the Earth’s core. All of them. Many episodes of later seasons use that scheme as well, but they also move away from it to give some screen time to other villains or monsters of the week. Quite frankly, the lack of variety in plots just makes season 3 feel that much longer, and it’s a welcome change when we start going for entire episodes without a Shredder in sight.
- Actually, it was also annoying that every second episode of season 4 on started with one of the Turtles complaining that “life is so boring without Krang and Shredder around.” Alright, maybe not quite every second episode, but my point stands that they lean on that setup far too often.
- Shellbacks! Wretched reptiles! Shellbacks! Wretched reptiles! Shellbacks! Wretched reptiles! Shellbacks! Wretched reptiles! Shellbacks! Wretched reptiles! Shellbacks! Wretched reptiles! Shellbacks! Wretched reptiles!
- Seriously, bad guys… get some new pejoratives.
And that’s about it. To be fair, I’m only just starting season 6, so maybe things will get mixed up a little as we go? Probably not. All I know for sure is that there is a major shift in seasons 8 to 10, so I’m really looking forward to seeing what those are all about. I’m sure I’d seen episodes here and there as a kid, and I know there’s a new main villain, but I honestly don’t remember anything else about late TMNT. It’s gonna be exciting!