Movies and TV
The Contradiction of April O'Neil in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Nick Hurwitch | 8 Aug 2014 19:00
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teenage mutant ninja turtles 2014 april

Though April is the most prominent female character in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, does that make her a strong female character?

In the sweet spot cross-section of fans who are old enough to care about such things but also shameless enough to admit they still love the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (raises hand), the casting of Megan Fox as April O'Neil in the latest reboot was seen as a harbinger of childhood murder*. If producer Michael Bay weren't enough, Fox's involvement seemed to indicate that the beloved no-bullshit, go-getter reporter would be reduced to a piece of eye candy; a damsel in distress waiting to happen. After all, these were Fox's primary functions in Bay's Transformers, where the fact that Mikaela was good with cars didn't stop Bay from bending her over those cars and sweeping a canted crane shot across her grease-stained hotpants.

So even without Bay at the helm (the new flick was directed by Jonathan Liebesman), I went in curious about how it would handle everyone's favorite yellow-clad evening anchor most of all.

To my surprise, the movie (which, as a lifelong Turtles fan, I found enjoyable, MovieBob's opinion notwithstanding) handles her admirably. Despite putting her on mini trampoline just minutes into the movie (yes, this really happens), she is the primary driver of plot and never once damseled. The only time the turtles do save her, along with several dozen other citizens, is after she runs into clear danger of her own volition, as any ambitious, foolhardy journalist would. Where female characters of her ilk would typically be required to pass the plot baton to its rightful heroes -- The Men -- April endures. The turtles are of course central, but the movie puts a simple twist on their well-rode backstories that ties them together in a meaningful way. Even after the brothers ramp up to full Mutant Ninja mode, kicking Foot and dropping one-liners, April always has an important role to play, right through the final scene.

Yes, you heard right. Megan Fox in a Michael Bay production is a Strong Female Character.

...Almost.

For all its admirable work in this regard, the flick can't help but remind us that, yes, Megan Fox is a girl and, oh, boy, have a look at her. Will Arnett's sole function in the movie is to stumble over himself trying to date her. Mikey can't go two seconds in the same frame without playfully quipping about her dateability like the worst bro in your high school graduating class ("She's so hot I can feel my shell tightening"). It never gets creepy or predatory, but it sure does get laid on thicker than 99-cheese pizza.

*I don't actually believe in this and neither should you. Your childhood is still intact regardless of new interpretations to the bad things you liked before you developed tastes.

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