Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Gospel

tmnt-2011-a-lA story as old as time, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Alright, so maybe the turtles themselves only date back to the late 80’s, a time when shoulder pads, jelly shoes, wallet chains were all the rage.  It’s not too hard to see how a story based on genetically mutated reptiles who fought crime with martial arts that were taught to them by a giant rat could catch on during this time period.  But at its core, the story of the Ninja Turtles is a story as old as time.  Four brothers who do not fit in with the world around them, who feel destined for greatness, only to eventually face the truth that their existence is the result of a mere accident.

Splinter in a scene from Teenage Mutant Ninja ...

Splinter in a scene from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The origins of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles varies in each incarnation of the series, but it stays similar; a certain chemical ooze gets spilled or accidentally spayed onto four baby turtles.  This “ooze” not only allows them to grow and resemble humanoid creatures, but also greatly heightens their intelligence and cognitive abilities.   They are then raised by a Rat (or Japanese martial artist turned rat, depending on the incarnation) who then teaches them the art of ninjitsu (obviously).  The four brothers are then raised in the sewers of New York City, going through adolescence and puberty while fighting petty crime in the city.

We all experience at least two thoughts during our teenage years, its universal.  1) We are unique, individual snowflakes who are unlike and completely individual from the masses around us, nobody really understands us.  2) We are destined for greatness and nothing can stop us.  Of course, neither of these two thoughts are really true.

Yes we are all individuals and slightly unique, but for the most part, humans are all basically the same.  We are all slaves to our own sin nature, and at the end of the day, everything we do serves ourselves.  Even our “good deeds” are an extension of our selfishness.  Look throughout history and see how similar we currently are to the ancient Romans and Greeks.  We are all sinful humans who, at our core, strive only to satisfy ourselves.  This is one aspect that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles actually hits on quite well.  The turtles are (for the most part) completely different individual from the rest of society.  And what is the thing that they strive for the most?  To be like everyone else and just be able to blend in.

The TMNT logo of the 1987 animated series.

The TMNT logo of the 1987 animated series. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The second universal teenage thought is that we are destined for greatness.  We put here by some cosmic force to accomplish something.  However, as the turtles learn, this is simply not the case.  Their entire existence is the result of a mere accident.  They have no great spiritual significance or destiny.  If a little boy hadn’t tripped and lost his pet turtles down a drain, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would not have even existed.  This is contrasted with our reality, where we have been uniquely created by the almighty God and have a distinct purpose and calling for our lives.  It may be something simple as suffering for the sake of Christ, or loving others as Christ loved us and spreading the Gospel through those means.  We have a great meaning in our lives, and we will accomplish it for the glory of God.

Shredder (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)

Shredder (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One other thing I would like to touch on in regards to Ninja Turtles and The Gospel is the turtles selfless protection they give to the people of New York.  The turtles are mocked, ridiculed, and persecuted by the people they are trying to save, nobody would blame them if stayed in the sewers and showed no emotion to the people who dwell among the streets.  But they spend their nights saving those who hate them and are scared of them.  They receive little to no recognition, and are often hunted by those who they help.  This is a great picture of what it means to spread the gospel of Christ through persecution.  Our love of people should empower us to go forth and spread the gospel, even if we are mocked, ridiculed or persecuted.  I pray that God gives me a heart similar to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Ninja Turtles

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are probably one of my favorite intellectual properties, right up there with Star Wars.  Unfortunately they haven’t shared in the same success as Star Wars has.  The Turtle’s glory days were the early 90’s (when I was growing up), they had a super popular Saturday morning cartoon and a successful movie franchise going on.  Then the cartoon ended and Turtles III bombed and that was the end of the golden age of the turtles.

Then in 2003, the cartoon came back on Fox Saturday mornings.  It wasn’t as childish as the early 90’s version so I liked it a lot considering I was 13.  It actually gave me a reason to wake up early on Saturday mornings again.  A few years later, a fourth turtle movie was produced in complete CGI.  It wasn’t bad really, though I think most fans love the live-action ones more because they seemed so much more real.  5 Years later, enter Nickelodeon.

Nickelodeon recently has purchased the rights to the turtles franchise and has begun production on both a new TV show (2012) and a reboot of the film franchise (2013).  And I for one am super excited.  I love that every generation of kids since I was a kid have had the privilege of being exposed to one of the turtle franchises, rather it was the original cartoon, the 2003 cartoon, or now the Nickelodeon version.  Everyone has their own opinion of which generation is best (just like pokemon fans), but from an unbias fan, they are all good on their own ground.

Recently, criticism has erupted at Michael Bay (producer of the new Turtle movie) because he made the comment about the turtles being of alien origin.  This remark has started what the turtle faithful has dubbed “Turtlegate”.  However, I think everyone needs to take a step back and wait for more information.  In the original comic, the turtles were mutated from a canister from T.C.R.I., with the “C” standing for cosmic.  It could be that the new movie is taking a more true approach than any of the previous versions have.  Can’t wait to see how everything turns out!!

Turtle Power!!