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.