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Opinion: Who cares if the Ninja Turtles are neither Teenage nor Mutant?

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Ever since producer Michael Bay casually mentioned that the eponymous heroes of his new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie would be aliens, and not, you know, mutants, the internet has been abuzz with complaints and a resounding chorus of childhood-rape accusations from fans as well as folks involved with the franchise. Now, the latest word is that the film will jettison not only the whole mutant thing, but the teenager aspect of the characters as well, calling itself, appropriately, “Ninja Turtles.” And unlike the rest of TMNT fandom, I’m completely fine with it.

This latest news comes via Bleeding Cool, which has verified that the title change is definitely happening, but has yet to pinpoint why, though their sources opine that it’s likely a marketing decision. This news has thrown additional fuel on an already considerable furor over changes that Bay and director Jonathan Liebesman (Wrath of the Titans) may be making to the TMNT source material. Just last week, IFC’s Rick Marshall spoke with Liebesman, who did his best to ameliorate the fan outcry, even pointing to the fact that TMNT co-creator Kevin Eastman is actually involved in the production.

The biggest complaint about these changes appears to be that it deviates from and somehow corrupts the core concept of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This assumes that being Teenage and Mutant is a crucial part of why the characters resonated with audiences in the first place, and as a lifelong TMNT fan, I can attest that just isn’t the case.

A little history lesson: the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were co-created by Eastman and partner Peter Laird back in the halcyon days of 1984. The original comic book series was conceived as an elaborate parody of the hottest trends in mid-80s comic books. The series’ most obvious target was Frank Miller’s “Daredevil,” exchanging Stick for Splinter, the Hand ninjas for the Foot ninjas and keeping the gritty, violent, dark world of Miller’s New York City. But TMNT also parodied the popular DC book “The Teen Titans” (teenage), Marvel’s “Uncanny X-Men” (mutants) and the growing market for black-and-white comics starring anthropomorphic characters (turtles). While the parody aspects of TMNT might have been crucial to its initial success, however, the vast majority of fans first experienced the characters in a very, very different manner: The cartoons, movies and toys.

The “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” cartoons, movies and toys kept the basics of the characters’ origins and identities, but the parodies and inside comics references were largely tossed aside – understandable given the material’s much younger demographic. Speaking anecdotally, of course, but many people who grew up with TMNT, while they might be aware of the characters’ comic book origins, don’t realize that the whole thing was an elaborate, meta-joke about what was popular in 1984. That’s because the TMNT cartoons and movies were far, far simpler, and concentrated less on parody and more on lovable, easily identifiable characters fighting an endless stream of ninjas, aliens and anthropomorphic henchmen while shouting absurdly 90s catchphrases. You know, stuff that’s totally awesome and blows kids minds.

Putting aside the actual abilities of Bay and Liebesman, if the two want to lose the most confusing, least resonant aspects of the TMNT concept, I’m completely fine with it. TMNT wasn’t a massive success because they were mutants or teenagers, but because they were Ninja Turtles, and as long as that stays in tact, I think the film has as fair a chance at success as any of the other numerous TMNT reboots – maybe even better. Additionally, I believe fan concern about the Turtles’ more identifiable characteristics getting lost to be extremely premature. To take one very specific example, anyone thinks that not being teenagers would prevent the Ninja Turtles from enjoying pizza hasn’t ever seen this full-grown man do work on a hot pie. Just because they are no longer teenagers doesn’t mean Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo can’t be fun, funny, likeable characters.

I have no idea if the Bay/Liebesman “Ninja Turtles” flick will be any good. Judging from my feelings about Bay’s “Transformers” franchise, I’m guessing it won’t really be up my alley, but that has little to do with concept or anticipated changes to the original intellectual property, and much more to do with my affinity (or lack thereof) for Bay’s work. Sure, as a comics guy, I appreciate and enjoy the in-jokes of the TMNT mythos, but I think they’re far from essential when it comes to distilling down that still totally bodacious concept. Cowabunga, motherf*ckers.

What do you think about “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” becoming just “Ninja Turtles”? Do you think it damages the entire concept, or is it a lot of fuss over nothing? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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Forget Oscar

Find Your Spirit Animal

The Spirit Awards are LIVE this Saturday at 2p PT/5p ET.

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In just a few precious days, the greatest, most epic, most star-studded awards ceremony of the year comes to IFC.

And please, we’re definitely not talking about the Oscars. We’re talking about the Spirit Awards. Hosted by iconic comedy duo Nick Kroll and John Mulaney, it’s a relatively under-the-radar awards show with serious cred. And if the past is any indicator, we’re in for a wild night.

If you feel like doing your homework, you can find a full list of nominees and performance excerpts here. It reads like a who’s who of everyone that matters – those larger-than-life personalities with status that borders on mythological. Our celebrity spirit animals, if you will.

This isn’t hyperbole. Literally everyone who takes the stage at the awards show is spirit animal material. Let’s see if we can help you find yours…

Do you

Live in someone else’s shadow despite shining like the sun? Do you inexplicably vandalize your pretty-boy good looks with a sloppy-joe man bun and a repellent pubic-hair beard? Do you think sounding stoned and sounding thoughtful are kinda the same thing?

Congratulations, your spirit animal is Casey Affleck.

He’s the self-canonized patron saint of anyone who’s got the goods but doesn’t give a damn.

Do you

Have mid-length hair and exude a certain feminine masculinity that is universally appealing? Are you drawn to situations that promise little to nothing in the way of grooming or hygiene as a transparently self-conscious attempt to conceal your radiant inner glow? Does that fail miserably?

Way to go, your spirit animal is Viggo Mortensen.

He’s the yoga teacher of actors, in that what should make him super nasty only increases his curb appeal.

Do you

Get zero recognition for work that everyone knows is unrivaled? Do you inspire greatness in others yet get shortchanged when it comes to your own acclaim? Are you a goddam B-52 bomber in an industry of biplanes?

Bingo, your spirit animal is Annette Bening.

What does it take for this artist to win an Oscar? Honestly now, if her performance in 20th Century Women doesn’t earn her every award on the planet, consider it proof that the Universe truly is a cold dark void absent of reason or compassion.

Do you

Walk into a room full of strangers and walk out with a room full of friends? Have you been hiding under the radar just waiting for the right moment to leap out into the spotlight and stay there FOREVER? Do you possess the almost messianic ability to elevate Shia LaBeouf’s on-screen charisma?

You guessed it (or not), your spirit animal is 100% Sasha Lane.

If you haven’t seen American Honey, then you haven’t heard of her. She came out of the blue with a performance both subtle and powerful, and now she’s going to be in all the movies from this moment on. Or she should be, at any rate.

Don’t see your spirit animal there? Worry not. There are many more nominees to choose from, and you can see them all (yes, including Shia LaBeouf) during the Independent Spirit Awards, this Saturday at 2pm PT/5pm ET only on IFC.

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Car Notes

Portlandia Keeps Road Rage In Park

Get a lesson in parking etiquette on a new Portlandia.

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It’s the most American form of cause and effect: Park like a monster, receive a passive-aggressive note.

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This unofficial rule of the road is critical to keeping the great big wheel of car-related Karma in balance. And naturally, Portlandia’s Kath and Dave have elevated it to an awkward, awkward art form in Car Notes, the Portlandia web series presented by Subaru.

If you’ve somehow missed the memo about Car Notes until now, you can catch up on every installment online, on the IFC app, and on demand. You can even have a little taste right here:

If your interest is piqued – great news for you! A special Car Notes sketch makes an appearance in the latest episode of Portlandia, and you can catch up on it now right here.

Watch all-new Portlandia Thursdays at 10P on IFC.

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Naked and Hungry

Two New Ways to Threeway

IFC's Comedy Crib gets sensual in time for Valentine's Day.

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This week, two scandalous new digital series debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib.
Ménage à Trois invites people to participate in a real-life couple’s fantasy boudoir. And The Filling is Mutual follows two saucy chefs who invite comedians to make food inspired by their routines. Each show crosses some major boundaries in sexy and/or delicious ways, and each are impossible to describe in detail without arousing some awkward physical cravings. Which is why it’s best to hear it directly from the minds behind the madness…

Ménage à Trois

According to Diana Kolsky and Murf Meyer, the two extremely versatile constants in the ever-shifting à trois, “MàT is a sensually psychedelic late night variety show exploring matters of hearts, parts and every goddamn thing in between…PS, any nudes will be 100% tasteful.”

This sexy brainchild includes sketches, music, and props that would put Pee-wee’s Playhouse to shame. But how could this fantastical new twist on the vanilla-sex variety show format have come to be?

“We met in a UCB improv class taught by Chris Gethard. It was clear that we both humped to the beat of our own drum; our souls and tongues intermingled at the bar after class, so we dove in head first.”

Sign me up, but promise to go slow. This tricycle is going to need training wheels.

The Filling is Mutual

Comedians Jen Saunderson and Jenny Zigrino became best friends after meeting in the restroom at the Gotham Comedy Club, which explains their super-comfortable dynamic when cooking with their favorite comedians. “We talk about comedy, sex, menses, the obnoxiousness of Christina Aguilera all while eating food that most would push off their New Year’s resolution.”

The hook of cooking food based off of comedy routines is so perfect and so personal. It made us wonder about what dishes Jen & Jenny would pair with some big name comedy staples, like…

Bill Murray?
“Oh, that’s easy Meatballs with Lingonberry Space Jam it’d be great, but then we’d have to Oh, that’s easy Meatballs with Lingonberry Space Jam it’d be great, but then we’d have to… Oh, that’s easy Meatballs with Lingonberry Space Jam it’d be great, but then we’d have to avoid doing any kind of silly Groundhog Day reference.” 

Bridget Everett?
“Cream Balls… Sea Salt encrusted Chocolate Ganache Covered Ice Cream Ball that melt cream when you bite into them.” 

Nick Kroll & John Mulaney? 
“I’d make George and Gil black and white cookies from scratch and just as we open the oven to put the cookie in we’d prank ’em with an obnoxious amount of tuna!!!”

Carrie Brownstein & Fred Armisen? 
“Definitely a raw cacao “safe word” brownie. Cacao!”

Just perfect.

See both new series in their entirety on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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