How April’s Ethnicity in Rise of the TMNT Promotes Diversity
After the most recent announcements about Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I couldn’t help but notice that a lot of fans got hung up on April’s ethnicity. Not only will she be played by a black actress, but reports indicate that she will also apparently be a black character in the cartoon. To the credit of my fellow shellheads, most of the people who were focused on this detail were actually pleased to see it. That being said, it seems that this subject has created a bit of controversy, and I wanted to address the topic of ethnicity and change in the TMNT universe.
First of all, I have to say that it was a little disconcerting to see so much focus on the ethnicity of a cartoon character. Although most people were simply surprised to see it, others were questioning why they would even bother changing this detail. Ultimately, one’s ethnicity does not define what they are and are not capable of doing, so there’s no reason to be confused about this alteration of the character.
When it comes to the surprise of seeing April O’Neil change, it’s much easier to understand why fans would be shocked. After all, we’re talking about a character that has traditionally been white in the cartoons and movies since 1987. However, it’s worth noting that April wasn’t always a redhead, and she actually at least appeared to have a different ethnicity in the comic books. In other words, this wouldn’t be the first time that her character has been altered for a different iteration of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Speaking of change, can we please show some appreciation for what Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles did for April O’Neil? Instead of being a friend who frequently got into trouble and needed their help, Nick’s TMNT actually made April a Kunoichi (female ninja) with incredible powers of her own. This may not have been the first time that she was turned into a fairly powerful member of the team, but it was certainly nice to see her take on a stronger role in the latest Ninja Turtles cartoon.
When we look at the overall history of this character, it is a history filled with transformation. Not only has her ethnicity changed, but her purpose in the group has also been either downplayed or improved depending on how the creators chose to write her into the story. If there’s one thing we can say about April O’Neil, it is that she is more than capable of change. I mean, we’re talking about the first human being to give the turtles a chance, right?
April is all about accepting change and seeking justice. Not only do I welcome this change of ethnicity, I’m also excited to see what comes of Kat Graham‘s interpretation of the character. If Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles made her an important and powerful member of the group, perhaps Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles can go the extra mile and promote even more diversity in the TMNT universe.
So, how do I feel about April O’Neil’s change in ethnicity? I’m excited, I’m hopeful, and I’m proud to be a fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. That’s how I feel, and that’s probably how we should all feel. Oh, and extra kudos to Nickelodeon for hiring a more diverse group of voice actors for this cartoon. I’m still not sure how to feel about Raphael being the leader, but this is one change that I definitely support.