TMNT: April O’Neil Kicks Ass, Takes Names

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As a child of the 80s, I grew up well-versed in all things pertaining to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and retain a good deal of emotional investment in all things TMNT-related. So of course I rushed to see the new CGI movie.

There are lots of good things to say about the film, but I’ll concentrate on the subject most relevent to this site: the portrayal of its female characters. For a film that is explicitly about four brothers, and only features two female characters, it presents its women very well.

April O’Neil is the turtles’ closest human friend. In the 80s cartoon, she usually occupied “damsel in distress” territory, and was in need of almost as much rescuing as Lois Lane. In TMNT, not only does April never need to be rescued, but she joins the Turtles when they do need to go on a rescue mission, decked out in ninja gear and wielding swords. We see her take down multiple Foot Clan ninja during the big melee. No issue is ever made of her gender at any point during the film. Her boyfriend Casey Jones never suggests that she sit the mission out, or occupy a support role. She’s just part of the team.

The other female character is Karai, the leader of the Foot Clan following the apparent death of the Shredder. (It’s unclear if the film is following the continuity of the comics, either cartoon series, or the live-action films. ) She is presented as a badass ninja leader, with hundreds of Foot ninja at  her command. After the film’s climax, we see her supporting one of her injured (male) ninja on her shoulder, in a pose normally seen between male comrades. Again, nothing is ever said about her gender.

It was great to see this in a movie half-aimed at kids.

Comments

  1. scarlett says

    I have a vauge memory of the original movie as well as the cartoons, and April was my hero – probably more ‘coz she was a reporter then anything else, but it was still cool that she could hold her own in a fight.

    And she had red hair!

  2. Ifritah says

    No fair! I’d decided to skip this movie, as I began feeling like the movies were starting to multiply like that set of dinosaur movies… Land Before Time? Yeah, that sounds right.

    But now I want to go! My roommate is going to give me so much grief after saying no so many times…

    (Also? Leonardo is the coolest ever!)

  3. sbg says

    It does sound cool.

    I have to wonder if the women would have been portrayed the same way if this had been a live action movie instead of CGI. Don’t ask me why I think it might make a difference, because I’ve no idea why the thought popped into my head.

    I was always partial to Raphael.

  4. Jennifer Kesler says

    I have to wonder if the women would have been portrayed the same way if this had been a live action movie instead of CGI. Don’t ask me why I think it might make a difference, because I’ve no idea why the thought popped into my head.

    Because it makes sense. Animation adds a layer of un-reality beyond the mere fiction. That’s got to be especially comforting to anyone who breaks out in a cold sweat at the idea of real women who handle traditionally male roles like there was never any reason for banning women from them in the first place. ;)

  5. says

    Leonardo: You’d better stay here, April, it could be dangerous!
    April: What, and miss the story of the century? No way!

    …was that in every episode, or just most of them? Man, I’ve always been fond of April.

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