Thursday, December 13, 2007
What do the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have to do with the Church? Part 1
I have always been a fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Ever since I saw the live-action movie (1990), I was hooked. I had the action figures, I watched the cartoon series faithfully, I even dressed up as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle for Halloween. But it wasn't until I saw the fourth movie (TMNT, 2007) that I fully realized what the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles really were.
Up until that point I had just taken it for granted that they were Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and you may have, too. The name rolls off the tongue so easily that one might miss the meaning of the phrase completely. In fact, I think it would benefit everyone if we separated each word by a period for emphasis: Teenage. Mutant. Ninja. Turtles. Not only are they turtles, not only are they ninja turtles, not only are they mutant ninja turtles, but they are Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! How could I have missed this before?
Maybe this doesn't mean much to you, but it means a whole lot to me. Think about it: Each and every one of those words is important. In fact, to remove any one of those words would place the entire existance of these heroes in jeopardy. Don't believe me? I'll prove it to you.
If these Mutant Ninja Turtles were not also Teenagers, they would not have nearly as much appeal to the youth as they do. They would not eat pizza, they would not ride skateboards, they would not play video games, and they would certainly never cry, "Cowabunga!" The fact that these strange heroes are Teenagers is part of what makes them so funny and so lovable.
Mutant is probably the most important word of the four because it explains the anthropomorphic nature of the Turtles. It allows these Turtles to train and fight as Ninjas while speaking and acting like Teenagers. If these Teenage Ninja Turtles were not also Mutant, the credibility of the series would be in question. One might even ask, "Are you sure they aren't just Teenage Ninjas who simply dress like Turtles?" The answer is, "No, they're really Turtles. They're Mutant Turtles."
The basis of the cartoon's genre as action-adventure (not to mention much of the plot) lies in the distinction of Ninja. This is the word that gives the four green brothers a purpose. Not satisfied with just hanging out in the sewer, they are sworn to uphold the code of the Ninja with acts of valor, righteousness, loyalty, and benevolence. It is because they are Ninjas that they defend the defenseless of the city against crime and evil. It is also worth noting that the phrase Teenage Mutant Turtles (sans the "Ninja") would imply that the characters are awkward and outlandish in every way. But they are, in fact, Ninjas. And that's pretty cool.
Finally, they're Turtles. This is mostly an idiosyncratic term that sets them apart from other heroes that are also considered Teenage Mutant Ninjas, such as Spiderman, the X-Men, et cetera. What's the difference between the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and all the other superheroes? Those other superheroes may be heroes, but the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are heroes in a half-shell, my friend. You don't see that in a hero (or, you don't see a hero in that) too often.
At this point you may be wondering, "What do the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have to do with the Church?" I'm glad you asked. Because in the same way that someone can talk about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles without fully understanding what those four words imply, one can state their belief in the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church week after week and not really comprehend the weight of this title. While these adjectives might seem redundant or superfluous, one must understand that the Church is seldom wordy for the sake of being wordy. Like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, every word counts in the Catholic Church. In the second part of this essay, I hope to thoroughly and sufficiently analyze these four words that so beautifully describe the Roman Catholic Church, just as I have analyzed the four words that describe my favorite childhood heroes.
Proceed to Part 2