As a child, I learned a lot about racism from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
They were my favorite superheroes, and still rank top 5 today. For anthropomorphizing one of the lamest animals in the kingdom, the ’80s iteration possessed just the right amount of heroism topped with attitude to keep me hungry for green (now my hunger for “green” manifests itself differently). The show’s pizza-cheeziness and trite slang, however, belied a theme surprisingly relevant to race relations in America today. The Ninja Turtles were often treated like minorities.
Not unlike the Turtles, non-whites in America are frequently ostracized for foreign appearance before character. Peculiar look, taste and attitude make the majority uncomfortable merely for lack of familiarity, as a child feels when meeting a harmless stranger. Yet the Turtles are harmless and just as capable as anyone else.
Leonardo’s leadership consistently thwarted everything from the Rat King to Pizza Monsters. Donatello was a hyper intelligent teenager, impressive regardless of species. Michelangelo is a party dude, like Seth Rogen in a shell. Physically, they’re exactly the same shape. But despite worthy talent the brothers were forced into a segregate, shitty neighborhood below everyone else. So when Raphael lost his cool it was easy to understand why, but also to foresee that outcome if you’d been watching and paying attention. (more…)