You know, in the conception of the idea behind this journal entry I found myself incredibly invigorated by the prospect of writing it. I think this journal has become a place where I mostly discuss core concepts and their potential growth into full works. I’m honestly okay with that. I think that’s a nice middle road that I can take that promotes intellectual discussion (in relatively barren comments sections) as opposed to angry discourse.
On the other hand, when I do discuss my journal in public I have to say things like “Oh tonight I’m doing an article on why it’s inherently troublesome to strongly deviate from the core mythos of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.”
You know, I’m glad I’m in a relationship now because the way I pursue a professional career I’d never get laid.
Anyway, if you set your wayback machines a bit you remember how angry the internet was about the change Michael Bay was making in his adaptation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film.
Do ya? Do ya? Cause it was a lot.
At the time, lesser comedians made jokes about how people needed to get a life. I would say the same thing about Jimmy Kimmel but here we are. Better comedians joked that we hadn’t even begun to see the changes made to the core concept (Racist sexy alien explosions is my favourite) and I figured that the reason why people weren’t upset with the concept more so that it was a convenient vehicle for them to express their displeasure at the sheer fact that Bay would be handling the material and the announcement was simply evidence that supported their claim.
Now at the time of heated relevance I discussed with fellows on the subject that you can say that the origin of the mutagen is alien, thus justifying the strange properties of it, but you can’t change the core concept which is what Bay would likely do.
Then I asked myself, why? Why can’t you change the core concept of TMNT? Why can’t it suffer a revision of sorts while not Bay’s some sort. I spent some time thinking of how I could change the set pieces of TMNT and then it hit me like a bolt of lightning to my brain.
The reason why you can’t change the core concept of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is because the core concept is too inclusive of any story element to survive change.
From the very title if you break it down this is true. Teenage implies young adventures, learning curves and finding one’s own identity and purpose. Well that’s a good portion of the Hero’s Cycle right there so we can’t be rid of it (no I don’t know when I’ll stop talking about the Hero’s Cycle now shut up). Mutant implies pulp science, specifically science without rules. And pulp science fiction is the style that you can use science almost like magic to achieve goals by creating abstract solutions to problems despite limited resources. Also there’s an implication that you can travel beyond those limitations to distant worlds.
Next up is ninja. You have from there implications of a code of honour, of ancient mysticism and discipline. There’s an undercurrent of a serious story and growing up by finding discipline. Combine that with awesome martial arts battles and stories where honour is as fatal as a blade. Lastly, the use of turtles implies an environmental theme and a creature that is normally quite passively defensive and beloved for it.
That means from the name alone we have set ups for a coming of age tale, a strange science tale, a tale about honour and deception, and a tale about the environment. From the very conceptual outset! And it isn’t like one would fit better than the other, they all work.
Let me feed a few random scenarios to you and you tell me if you can see them happening in a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles story.
Our heroes travel back in time where they are forced into gladiatorial combat to survive.
A strange scientist holds the city hostage with a powerful laser.
An ancient katana must be retrieved to restore the honour of a samurai warrior.
A drug ring imposes a reign of terror on the city and must be stopped.
All of those work! They aren’t even hard to imagine! Heck you can probably think of episodes from various series and movies that come close!
I think when people got angry about the announcement even they didn’t know why it was so dangerous to change the core concept of the franchise. It is because of the fact that if you change it too drastically you severely limit the story elements that are possible.
This is the crux of my argument; we live in a period of entertainment that thrives hard on realism for some bizarre reason. There are very few new concepts that aren’t having a lot of their science fiction whimsy slowly pounded out of them as old ones are slowly being stripped of their pulpy roots.
Spidey used to be bitten by a radioactive spider, remember that?
Because of that I think there’s a risk of stripping a lot of the wonder from some of these stories to appease analytical fans instead of refining the story, dialogue or characters. I think on an emotional level we know this, even if we don’t intellectually realize it. Hence why so many of us were horrified as one of the last bastions of flying car ninja battles (episode three of the original cartoon I think) faced the firing squad.
I think we need to find a way to meld our knowledge of science with our ability to fudge the rules so that more stories like these can remain and we can still be amazed and be lost in a grand sense of suspended disbelief.
And so too does this work exist.