Social media erupted on Thursday with the release of first artwork and significant details for Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Nickelodeon’s upcoming animated television reboot of the beloved 34-year-old property. Many longtime fans viewed the character designs, and significant changes to established canon, as an affront to the heroes they first discovered as children. These versions of Raphael, Donatello, Michelangelo and Leonardo now wield different weapons (and powers?), play different roles, and simply look different than the Turtles of yesteryear. To their thinking, these aren’t the Ninja Turtles, plain and simple. And here’s the thing: They aren’t.
Nostalgia sometimes places strange ideas into our minds, some good and some bad. But perhaps the most volatile side effect of reveling in the fiction from our youth, from our “glory days,” is the notion of ownership. While there’s no denying this new iteration Ninja Turtles is different, that doesn’t mean Nickelodeon and its parent company Viacom (which purchased the property in 2009) haven’t traveled back through time to smother your childhood. No matter whether you grew up reading Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s original comic books, became obsessed with the toys and related cartoon, or look back on seeing the 1991 live-action film in the theater as a life-changing event, this latest reimagining of the heroes in a half shell doesn’t erase your memories, no matter which previous version you love.
Geek culture is plagued by that curious disconnect. We’ve seen it manifest in the most hostile manner with outrage inevitably generated any time a comic book company decides to place a character of a different ethnicity or gender in the familiar costume of a decades-old superhero (no matter how temporary that change is destined to be). And by now we’ve all seen the fiery think pieces declaring that, with The Last Jedi, director Rian Johnson has ruined Star Wars … forever!
But those bursts of fury, which seldom have much consequence (The Last Jedi has earned $1.3 billion worldwide; that’s billion, with a B), may only be the death cries of fading youth. And that’s OK. Sometimes, however, it’s better to let go of that thing you loved, or at least be willing to pass it down to a new generation.
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