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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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Inauguration Alternative

Bill Murray On Repeat

It's a movie "Murray-thon" all-day Friday on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs courtesy of GIPHY

Democrats, Republicans and Millennials agree: 2017 is shaping up to be a spectacle — a spectacle that really kicks into high gear this Friday with the presidential inauguration. Not only will the new POTUS swear in, but all the Country’s highest offices will be filled. It’s a daunting prospect, and to feel a little anxious about it is only normal. But if your anxiety is snowballing into panic, we have a solution:
Bill Murray.

He’s the human embodiment of a mental “Happy Place”, and there’s really no problem he can’t solve. So, with that in mind, how about we all set aside reality for a moment and let Bill take the pain away by imagining a top-shelf White House cabinet filled exclusively by his signature characters. Here are a few hypothetical appointments for your consideration…

Secretary of Defense:
Bill Murray from Stripes

His incompetence is balanced by charm, and dumb luck is inexplicably on his side. America could do worse.

Secretary of State:
Bill Murray from Lost In Translation

A seasoned globetrotter steeped in regional traditions who has the respect of the whole wide world. And he kills Costello in karaoke, which is very important.

Press Secretary:
Bill Murray from Ghostbusters

“Cats and dogs, living together. Mass hysteria.” Dude knows how to brief a room.

Secretary of Health and Human Services:
Bill Murray from What About Bob.

A doctor-approved people person who knows that progress is measured in baby steps.

Secretary of Energy:
Bill Murray from Groundhog Day

Let’s be honest, this world is going to need a lot of do-overs.

Feeling better? Hold on to that bliss. And enjoy a healthy alternative to the inauguration brouhaha with multiple Murrays all Friday long in an IFC movie marathon including Kingpin, Zombieland, Ghostbusters, and Ghostbusters II.

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Home Run

Hank Azaria Gets Thrown A Curve Ball

Brockmire Premieres April 5 at 10P

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Unless you’ve somehow missed every episode of the Simpsons since 1989, then surely you know that Hank Azaria is one of the most important character actors of our time. He’s so prolific and his voice is so dynamic that he’s responsible for more iconic personalities than most folks realize. Basically, he’s the great and powerful Oz — except that when you pull back the curtain the truth is actually more impressive. And now Hank is coming to IFC to bring yet another character to the TV pop culture hive mind in the new series Brockmire. Check out the trailer below.

Based on the following Funny or Die short and co-starring Amanda Peet, Brockmire follows the story of imploded major league sportscaster Jim Brockmire as he tries to resurrect his career by calling plays for a floundering minor league team in a podunk town.

The series is written by Joel Church-Cooper (Undateable) and produced by Funny or Die’s Mike Farah and Joe Farrell, meaning that there’s funny in front of the camera, funny behind the camera–funny all around. Sounds like a ball to us.

Brockmire premieres April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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Car Notes

Portlandia On People Who Can’t Park

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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If flagrant bad parking takes nerve, then retaliatory note writing takes neuroses. Watch Fred and Carrie take passive aggression to next level in Car Notes, the new Portlandia web series presented by Subaru. The first episode is yours right here and now, and you can see every installment of Car Notes anytime online, on the IFC app and on demand.

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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