Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fans are squabbling over April O’Neil’s ethnicity in the new film

April O’Neil, played by Megan Fox in the live-action films, received a significant makeover for the newcomer Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot. Not only is she far less sexualized than the Fox version, but she is now portrayed as a black girl voiced by her The bear Actress Ayo Edebiri.

This casting drew a familiar sort of petty racial backlash β€” along with an unexpectedly deep dive into April O’Neil’s performance at the beginning TMNT Canon. Basically, some fans argue that April was meant to be black or mixed race in the original comics and was later whitewashed in canon.

Founded in 1983 by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird TMNT Franchise began as an indie comic series parodying DC/Marvel superheroes. April is the most prominent human character, and in the early comics (which were illustrated in black and white) her appearance was racially ambiguous.

This week when racist fans started complaining about April being black in the coming period Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Chaosseveral people clapped back with vintage art depicting April with dark curly hair.

The story goes that April was partially inspired by Kevin Eastman’s then-girlfriend, a mixed-race woman named April. However, the character’s two creators have differing opinions on her ethnicity, with Peter Laird saying in an interview, “If you ask me, I’ve always thought of April O’Neil as white. If you ask Kevin, I suspect he would say – as he has done in a number of interviews – that she was of mixed race.”

In other words, her ethnicity in those early comics was really, really ambiguous.

Later, when the comics were reprinted in color, April had brown hair and pale skin. Most adaptations depict her as a white woman with red hair, although Megan Fox stayed brunette for her films. To further complicate the issue, some fans pointed out that April’s curly hair was canonically a perm in the 1980s. But at the same time some vintage comics were colored to explicitly show April as black. She is also black in 2018 Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV series.

There’s a lot of back and forth between them at the moment TMNT Fans on Twitter and YouTube, with both sides trying to refute the other’s evidence from the same 40-year-old comics. But there is no truthfully correct answer to April’s “original” racial identity. Even the character’s creators can’t seem to agree, leaving fans locked in a fruitless battle over canon forensics.

Unfortunately, even if these vintage comics did giving a gotcha response to the racial backlash it probably wouldn’t make a difference. The people who post YouTube scolds about “woke up” children’s cartoons are not motivated by rational concerns. They’re not really defending the sanctity of a franchise whose previous films have averaged 31% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. In reality, they just don’t want to see black people in a movie, and arguments like “it’s not canon” or “redheads will be erased from Hollywood” provide a convenient excuse for racism.

Judging by the trailer, the new one TMNT The film might actually be the first good film in the franchise. The animation style is reminiscent of Into the Spider-Verse, and the turtles are voiced by actual teenagers. It looks cute! As is so often the case, the “fans” who fret over various casting are probably just depriving themselves of a chance to enjoy a fun movie.


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*Initial publication: March 7, 2023 9:16 am CST

Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

Gavia Baker-Whitelaw is a staff writer at the Daily Dot, covering geek culture and fandom. Specializing in science fiction films and superheroes, she also appears as a film and television critic on BBC radio. Elsewhere, she is the co-host of the pop culture podcast Overinvested. Follow her on Twitter: @Hello_Tailor

Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

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