Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Racist Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

(Published in the Philadelphia Inquirer  Op-Ed section on June 13, 2016)

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Movie is just another example of racist propoganda.
Yes, I'm saying it! The movie  featuring those green sewer-dwelling amphibians that everyone loves is racist. Subliminally racist. Insidiously racist.

I know . . . people are tired of folks accusing movies or television series of having racist content or undertones. Because, come on, if you look hard enough you can convince yourself that anything can be racist. Right?

But let's examine some cold hard facts here, okay?

Raphael, Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo -- members of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles = The good guys.

Be-Bop, Rock-steady, and Shredder -- members of the Foot Clan = The bad guys.

Raphael, Donatello, and Michelangelo are named after great artists of the European Renaissance era. Leonardo, then one might easily surmise, is meant to represent Leonardo da Vinci -- the great artist, inventor, mathematician and writer whose genius epitomized the Renaissance humanist ideal.  

They are, of course figures to be admired, even worshiped as role models for our children. Figures with whom we would all want to identify, and whose success we hope they would aspire to emulate. 

But now let's look at the bad guys, shall we?

Bebop is a form of music developed in the 1940s -- some say invented by jazz icons Charlie "Yardbird" Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Coleman Hawkins -- but identified with all the African-American jazz musicians of that era. 

Rocksteady is a musical form that came out of the Caribbean, mainly Jamaica, in the mid 1960s. Made famous by Alton Ellis who was called the "Godfather of Rocksteady," It even spawned a dance craze that reached the United States in the 1970s with the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklins' hit Rock Steady.  Johnny Nash hit number one on the Billboard Chart here in the States with his Rocksteady song, I Can See Clearly Now.

Shred guitar or shredding is defined as a virtuoso leading guitar solo playing style for the electric guitar, based on various fast playing techniques. A friend of my father's always talked about musicians and their titles. Frank Sinatra was "The Chairman of the Board." Ray Charles was "The Genius.” And Jimi Hendrix -- who died in 1970 after only a four-year career in music --  was "The Shredder."  Search the web and you'll find numerous mentions of his magnificent shredding at the Woodstock Music Festival, and his stirring rendition of The Star Spangled Banner is still considered a shredding classic. Though greatly identified with heavy metal rock, Prince was also considered one of the great shredders, and he cited his shredding influences as both Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana. 

Now, see, I don't think it's overly sensitive to look at a cartoon that names all the smart good guys after European culture and all the stupid bad guys after Black culture. Do you?

What bothers me the most is that it's subliminal, and therefore insidious!  

Subliminal, because most of the children watching wouldn't yet know about the European Renaissance, or yet be familiar with names of music genres like Rocksteady and Bebop, they're just watching a funny action-packed cartoon. Thus the idea is insidiously planted in their brain -- European culture good -- Black culture bad.

Cowabunga my ass.