Of all the adaptations and merchandising tie-ins, two things remain constant about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
1) Their origins as a parody of mega-gritty American hypermasculinity will remain pointedly unexplored.
2) They love pizza. At least their concept of it.
You could argue the latter is part and parcel to character development. Garfield loves lasanga. Kojak loves lollipops. The version of all my Junior High teachers who linger within the fractured mindscape of my dreams love to set their stony gazes on me in moments of fleeting pride to remind me that I am really just a mediocre person who benefitted from decades of patience and emotional labor from smarter, kinder women. It’s just a tool of fiction, like the sassy gay friend. It doesn’t require s̶e̶l̶f̶-̶f̶o̶r̶g̶i̶v̶e̶n̶e̶s̶s̶ extrapolation.
But however seemingly trivial, a character’s vices speak to the greater context of the characters. The lasagna represents the labor of others that Garfield glibly leeches; the tootsie roll pop hints at Kojak’s capacity for empathy.
What does pizza say about the Ninja Turtles and the stories they mean to tell across every possible profitable medium?
Read below for some theories I’ve put together based on my research and experience as a lifelong TMNT fan. Seriously, I had the fucking Tournament Fighters game.
I think they’re gone.
You all need to be carrying more water when you come out to protest.
A nalgene, yes, the fucking plastic water jug that joggers and shit carry with them, is like 1/8 the cost of brass knuckles, you’ll use it more, be able to take it into more protest spaces, and won’t fumble trying to slip it on in the heat of a fracas and lose it.
Someone who’s thirsty, hungry, or tired is a vulnerability to the rest of the group. It’s a numbers game. At first the police just stare you down from behind their riot shields, but as it gets darker, and as people start to leave because they’re spent, those cops start to move in, and with every inch they gain they become more and more daring.
Bring water. Drink it. Share it. Bring a full nalgene and a few bottles of water for comrades. Airborne an Emergen-C don’t really work in the ways they’re advertised (if at all; vitamin consumption is complex)—but if you have access to a few packets and can give them out to mix with water, you can do for morale in the face of a cold night and a colder conscience with some citrus-flavored water what the misguided desire to smash private property without consequence did for you to start coming out to protests in the first place.
Water is good opsec.
Get a $12 portable phone charger and charge it before you leave so you can help people juice up their phones. Get some granola bars or beef jerky from Walgreens.
Brands that make gluten-free granola bars: KIND, Annie’s, Larabar, Nature’s Path.
Brands that make vegan granola bars: Larabar, Pure, Kashi, Earnest Eats.
Protein is good opsec.
Be the relief column you want to see in the revolution. You know that scene where the hero gets beat to shit and slumps down in near-defeat, before they see the extended hand of a newly arrived friend to help them back up? Each of you reading this has the capacity to be that hand.
The best way you can show your support and gratitude to the organizers and leaders is to demonstrate that you’ve learned the necessary lessons from their struggles—the battle is long, power comes in many forms, and staying safe is just as important, and sometimes much harder, than staying strong.
So about the Turtles.
So, in the cartoon, they’re always seen as ordering pizza, but in other adaptations, citizens just leave pizzas by manholes as a way to thank the turtles for protecting the city, and pizza, especially in New York City, is one of those foods that’s accessible to just about anyone regardless of their cultural or economic backgrounds, and as the turtles themselves are alien to the city they protect in their own right, pizza is sort of this universal language for people living under a shared narrative—i.e. being protected from killer ninja by giant turtles.
Also worth nothing that the turtles, in the sense that they live in a world that is not designed for their bodies, are, despite being “superhuman” in a sense, also disabled, and pizza is a food that is reasonably handled when you have three larger fingers per hand. The Ninja Turtles would be really disappointed to see you making fun of pre-peeled oranges on Twitter.
And I guess they ate some pizza before they turned into mutants it reminds them of their youth. And being cold-blooded creatures, a slice of pizza found in the trash would have nourished their pre-ooze bodies for much longer than it would any of ours.
In proportion to their lifespans, pizza is more intimately tied to their understanding of family and culture than it may be to any of us, even though that relationship to pizza is derived from their context as being a marginalized subculture within our society. And the putting pickles and hot fudge and tea and anchovies on pizza needs to be viewed under that framework, as variations descending from their own cultural norm, rather than as an aberration of our norm reflective of their strangeness.
De-cowa-lonize your bunga, dudes.
Author: Jetta Rae
Founder of Fry Havoc. Can be found on twitter at @jetta_rae