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

heWizard

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

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

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JimB

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Hm...I'm trying to remember April in the comic series published by Archie Comics, and my memory is too faulty for me to be sure but I don't think she comes off well there, either. I know once the character design ditched the jumpsuit for jeans and a T-shirt, she started ninja training and fought beside the Turtles in sword fights n shit, and though the series made a point of telling us every guy who knew her name hit on her and asked her out on dates, she never took those dates because she was married to her job. I even remember a story arc about her saving her boyfriend from a mutant dog trying to summon a Japanese demon.

That storyarc I just mentioned also introduced a female mutant fox who became Raphael's girlfriend fucking immediately, and as best my spotty recollection provides, April kind of stopped being in the comic at that point. I think maybe Ninjara replaced April's function in the book.
 

cynicalsaint1

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If memory serves the 2007 CG TMNT actually had a pretty strong April as well. She actually finally had the sense to learn some martial arts herself apparently, and fights alongside the turtles in that one.
 

Pyrian

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You just, in dead serious earnest, wrote that the new April O'Neil is a strong female character except that she's attractive and guys are attracted to her - thereby excluding her from qualifying. "Almost." But no cigar. You're basically saying that being pretty makes you weak.

I find this attitude far more troublesome than a little ogling.
 

Burnouts3s3

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I think Devin Faraci from Badass Digest put it best.
http://badassdigest.com/2014/08/05/teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles-movie-review-heroes-on-the-hack-shell/

But the turtles end up crowded out of their own picture, sidelined by April O?Neil, who takes center stage. It?s weird; I like the idea of the female character getting more to do, but the movie?s title is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Coming into the story through her POV makes a bit of sense (the movie, for some reason, plays the turtles as a reveal) but staying there? All the way through the last scene of the film?
She's a good protagonist in a movie that completely sidelines the main characters. And since she isn't the one doing ninjutsu, there's this huge disconnect/tone shift whenever her part's on screen and when the Turtles are on screen. 'She' cares more about where the Turtles came from than the Turtles themselves (not one of them display curiosity past Splinter's word.)
 

JimB

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Pyrian said:
You're basically saying that being pretty makes you weak.
Would you mind quoting the line or lines you're getting that from? Because I'm not seeing that. I see several bits where the author complains about how the movie seems more interested in inviting the audience to leer and thereby make issue of her sexuality than it ought to be, but that's it.

I also am not sure how you mean "weak." Are you referring to the character's abilities, or to the characterization displayed by the movie? If the former, would you mind quoting me the lines that lead you to that conclusion as well?
 

Pyrian

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JimB said:
Pyrian said:
You're basically saying that being pretty makes you weak.
Would you mind quoting the line or lines you're getting that from?
Sure. Let's start with the fact that, other than being pretty, she's a "strong female character":
Yes, you heard right. Megan Fox in a Michael Bay production is a Strong Female Character.
I would also cite the entire preceding paragraph, but I will not copy it here. He makes it very clear that in terms of her actions and role within the movie, she's a Strong Female Character. ...Except not:

The very next paragraph consists entirely of "Almost." This means that she is NOT a "Strong Female Character" (author's term, not mine) because that's what "almost" means: that you got close, but didn't make it.

So, why is it almost, instead of, say, mostly, or something else in addition? Well, the next two paragraphs explain, and it's entirely because she's pretty and people notice:
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.
So, she's not a "Strong Female Character" (i.e. she's weak) and it's entirely because she's pretty and people notice. Which means he wrote that being noticeably pretty automatically and in itself precludes you from being strong (I'm assuming it doesn't exclude you from being female or a character).

That's... Awful. And it's also extremely clear from the text and I frankly can't imagine where your confusion could be coming from.

JimB said:
I also am not sure how you mean "weak."
Well, that depends on what the article's author meant by "Strong Female Character" (he does not elaborate except in the already cited text), but I think it's a major problem no matter how you take that phrase.
 

JimB

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Pyrian said:
So, why is it almost, instead of, say, mostly, or something else in addition? Well, the next two paragraphs explain, and it's entirely because she's pretty and people notice:
I think you might be making the mistake of treating the movie like reality. No one is really noticing April O'Neil is pretty. The problem is that in this entirely artificial and fictional situation, fictional characters are being forced by writers to notice how pretty she is, and the audience is being forced to notice it with lingering camera shots of her ass and whatever else he mentioned (I did not see the movie and do not intend to, so I am only providing my understanding of the author's complaints, not speaking for their veracity). In the real world, yes, a woman's sexual appeal has nothing to do with the kind of person she is, but in fiction, her characterization is damaged whenever we are invited to view her not as a subject but as an object seen through the lens of another's desires. It certainly doesn't help that the desire in question is a desire to pee in her butthole.

Pyrian said:
So, she's not a "Strong Female Character" (i.e. she's weak) and it's entirely because she's pretty and people notice.
I feel like a lot of problems in these recurring discussions could be solved with a comma. "Strong, female character" means something rather different than "strong female character." I don't think the author's intent is to focus on April's strength, particularly since he never defines what either strength or weakness are. I think it's to focus on the strength of her characterization.
 

ReverendBob

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JimB said:
I feel like a lot of problems in these recurring discussions could be solved with a comma. "Strong, female character" means something rather different than "strong female character." I don't think the author's intent is to focus on April's strength, particularly since he never defines what either strength or weakness are. I think it's to focus on the strength of her characterization.
This is actually a really great point. Note, however, that you need a correct use of a hyphen, not a comma. See hyphenated, compound, or phrasal adjectives See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compound_modifier

A strong female character is correct for our conversation. It is a character that is strong (however that is defined) and female (e.g. Ripley, Clarice from Silence of the Lambs).

A strong-female character is a character that is a strong woman (e.g. Power Girl, Wonder Woman, Titania, Supergirl, She-hulk).
 

JimB

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ReverendBob said:
A strong female character is correct for our conversation.
I think a comma would clarify that "strong" is not being used as an adverb to modify "female," but is rather one of two adjectives modifying "character." I'm glad you like the underlying sentiment whether or not you agree with my approach to it, though.
 

vid87

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Three things:

1)"Strong" in this context is mainly applying to her character and how she contributes to the story. Unless there's a scene where she has to, say, pick up Leo's katana and stealthily shove it in Shredder's armor to disable him, physical strength is not the focus and by rights makes sense for this particular story - she's not a ninja, has no combat training, and has virtually no chance lasting in a direct fight, which is fine. What makes her a better character is how she *works around that particular handicap* to help out. That plays to her gutsy, proactive nature. In fact, that's the key word - not "strong" but "proactive" - she's outmatched but she refuses to be a victim and let others solve her problems. Hell, we bash her for Transformers, but I distinctly remember the climax of #1 where she hooks up Bumblebee to a pickup truck and drives him around so he can continue fighting. Again, not a soldier, probably doesn't know how to use military tech, but she still helps however she can.

2)The whole "pretty = weak" is not the argument: it's objectification. Sure she's attractive - 99% of actors in Hollywood have their jobs because they're nice to look at - but no one seems to acknowledge her beyond that. For God's sake, Vernon would rather ogle her ass than *warn her against impending danger.* I'm sure it was supposed to be funny, but it's also nonsensical and makes him a terrible character. Also, reading that "shell tightening" made me literally, physically cringe and not just because this is Mikey we're talking about. The author's idea of "Almost" was that the film, for all the positive development it (apparently) gives her, it still needs to treat her like a sexual object. To be honest, I'm not sure if that's 100% wrong were it in another context, especially if they play that as that character's particular strength (Game Overthinker Bob did an interesting bit on how Bayanetta is progressive because she *owns* her sexuality), but this is supposed to be a kid's movie - it's got Nickelodeon's seal on it - and it could very well be sending the wrong message for both sexes.

3)I just saw a clip of an interview of Fox going on about how Vanilla Ice should've been on the soundtrack. I'm not 100% sure if that's just the studio telling her to hype things or something (though that's kind've degrading the actual soundtrack), but between this and that bit where she wants to play a live-action Sailor Moon and I'm starting to wonder if maybe we don't have the complete picture of her or, worse, if she can't let us see it because she's been convinced her only assets are the T&A. I read too much into things, sure, but, while I don't believe she's a stellar actress, I wonder if there's more to her that if she let it out would make her far better.
 

Daaaah Whoosh

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So...

Not to be that guy, but...

Isn't it worse that the male characters are the ones objectifying the female character? I mean, we want to have strong female characters that are more than a pretty ass, but don't we also want strong male characters that are more than just horny idiots too?
 

vid87

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Daaaah Whoosh said:
So...

Not to be that guy, but...

Isn't it worse that the male characters are the ones objectifying the female character? I mean, we want to have strong female characters that are more than a pretty ass, but don't we also want strong male characters that are more than just horny idiots too?
I agree in that it just needs to plain stop for the sake of both genders.
 

NoeL

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Daaaah Whoosh said:
So...

Not to be that guy, but...

Isn't it worse that the male characters are the ones objectifying the female character? I mean, we want to have strong female characters that are more than a pretty ass, but don't we also want strong male characters that are more than just horny idiots too?
I think it's more that the scene is shot as if we're supposed to ogle her ass (I haven't seen the movie, but that's how the author described it), which degrades the female character and not the male characters around her. If if was shot from the front (we see that Vernon has a clear view of her ass, and we can see his facial expression) or didn't linger (just to briefly show what Vernon was seeing, without actually filming from his POV) it wouldn't be much of a problem. Sounds more like the director shot the scene as he did for the sake of getting some tasty ass on screen rather than framing the characters.

But yeah, I'm also sick of horny idiot characters too. It's not funny, it's sad.
 

RealRT

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2003 cartoon has April as a scientist who is a non-action girl, but she is an asset to the team nonetheless, acting as the team hacker either in collab with Donnie or replacing him when he has to take the action and actively helping turtles. And there's no interspecies love interest bullshit because her romance is not with the turtles, but with Casey Jones, whom she ends up marrying. And she also starts getting ninjitsu lessons from Splinter. She goes through a lot and gets some development, which I think makes for a strong female character.
 

Nurb

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This is why female characters will never be "good enough", people keep over-analyzing every single one. That's why Ellie from TLoU had people saying she wasn't strong and independent enough despite already being made unrealisticly capable in every way for a 14 year old. Everyone has to nitpick.

In this case, I don't see why a "strong character" and being sexually appealing is mutually exclusive as things seem to imply, but the article puts more thought into a Bay movie more than it deserves.
 

immortalfrieza

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heWizard said:
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.
So? That's basically all April O'Neal has been in most of the TMNT media she's been in, a damsel in distress that everybody else in the cast has to go out of their way to save all the time, and in the few where she isn't she doesn't start out that way and has to grow into being competent. Also, eyecandy? That's another given.

It's like if they made a faithful Super Mario movie and everybody complained that Princess Peach doesn't do anything but get kidnapped over and over. I mean, what do you expect?

8bitOwl said:
It's like with Scarlet Johansson: they try to sell us the Black Widow as strong and independent, but the REAL reason she's there is to look really pretty.
Scarlet Johansson's Black Widow does a good job of coming off as being a good strong female character in spite of also being eyecandy at the same time is the difference, in fact BW being eyecandy is barely focused on at all. By contrast Megan Fox has never been anything but total eye candy in everything she's ever been in, they don't even TRY to make her look like she's there to be anything else.

Johansson's Black Widow is one of the few examples that exist which show that female character can be strong and independent and look good at the same time, Megan Fox's characters are as far on the other side of the spectrum as one can get and still fill the eyecandy part.