April O'Neil Will Be Black In Upcoming 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' Animated Movie, Reviving Familiar Discourse War

March 7th, 2023 - 1:31 PM EST by Adam Downer

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Yesterday, the first trailer for Seth Rogen's upcoming animated film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem was released by Nickelodeon, showing off an early glimpse of the 3D style and new character designs.

Releasing in August, this iteration of the Ninja Turtles will be the first cinematic outing for the quartet since 2016's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. But, as seems to be par for the course whenever any adaptation is announced, social media is running through another round of discourse over the choice of race for a specific character.

In Mutant Mayhem, April O'Neil will be a Black teenage girl, as opposed to the adult white woman she'd been portrayed as in some cartoons and later by Megan Fox in the live-action films. Mutant Mayhem's April will also be voiced by Ayo Edibiri.

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As with The Little Mermaid and Velma before it, a significant amount of social media users are unhappy that the character is perceivably race-swapped.

Many also expressed they were upset she was not tall and skinny but rather short and somewhat stouter than the character has been in previous iterations.

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This prompted a deep dive into the lore of TMNT, and users made the argument that April O'Neil was originally mixed-race when the franchise debuted as a comic book and was only race-swapped to white when the IP went to cartoons and television.

As the rumored history of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles goes, co-creator Kevin Eastman based the character off a woman he was dating named April, who was mixed-race. Though the original comics were drawn in black and white, April's perm and facial features of the early comics have been used by some to make the point that she was originally a non-white character. The other co-creator, Peter Laird, is on record stating that he always saw April as white, but acknowledged Eastman viewed her as mixed-race.

April has taken many forms in 40 years of Ninja Turtles canon, from the character portrayed in the original comics and the tall, red-haired character of the original cartoon series to (brunette) Megan Fox and a young Black girl in the 2018 animated series Rise of the Teenage Ninja Turtles.

As many have noted amid the viral debate, this suggests there is no true "canon" appearance of April O'Neil, as showrunners and movie directors have historically chosen to portray her in a variety of ways based on the stories they want to tell with the IP.

While social media hashes out whether it matters if a fictional character who hangs out with anthropomorphic sewage creatures is white, hot, Black or young, historically, it's been proven that the common arguments about the races of characters in adaptations tend not to hold sway over whether general audiences like the final product.

What typically matters more is the actual quality of the TV show or movie — though recent adaptations that have made changes to the races of major characters have not fared well with critics of late, for reasons entirely unrelated to race.

Top Comments


in reply to Rynjin

I do want to say I don't actually care that she's black, but it's really odd that the Ginger Erasure meme has turned into an Actual Thing (not even just recasting as black specifically, but just like making them some generic white girl who's a brunette instead of getting the actress some hair dye is common too) and I'm not sure why. Who in Hollywood has it out for redheads?


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