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TMNT: Mutant Mayhem's Portrayal of April O'Neil Sparks Online Backlash

The first trailer for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem (2023) has been very well received by fans, however, as is always the case with a reboot nowadays, not everyone is happy, and it all appears to relate to one character as opposed to the film itself. So, what's all the Mutant "Mayhem" all about?

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Related: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem to Hit Theaters In Summer 2023

There have been countless iterations of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles since their inception way back in 1984 in the Mirage Comics. That version remains the grittiest depiction, however, three years later it became the family-friendly cartoon series that launched TMNT into pop culture infamy.

Consequently, the cartoon series led to a live-action film in 1990. While family-friendly to some extent, it did lend itself more to the tone from those original comic books. That film got two live-action sequels, and eventually, a CG-animated film simply titled TMNT in 2007.

In more recent years, there were the two live-action films from producer Michael Bay which, for the first time, gave us CG-animated, motion-captured Ninja Turtles alongside real human actors. And all the while, the comic books continued under Archie Comics, and in more recent decades, IDW Publishing.

And none of this even touches upon the numerous video game titles and all the different versions of the cartoon show - following the '80s through '90s series, there was the 2003 reboot, the widely popular 2012 CG-animated show that came to an end in 2015, and Rise of the TMNT in 2018.

There was even a live-action television series titled Ninja Turtles: Next Mutation in 1997. But the less said about that, the better.

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Related: Seth Rogen's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Reboot Gets New Release Date

So that brief history lesson in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles gives you some idea of how many different versions of April O'Neil there have been since 1984. On the big screen alone, Mutant Mayhem will count as the fifth version of the character. Across all mediums, we estimate some 30 versions of the character.

Now, Ayo Edebiri will play the character in the upcoming film, following Judith Hoag, Jean Paige Turco, Sarah Michelle Gellar (voice actress only), and Megan Fox. However, while the casting choice itself hasn't prompted backlash from "fans" - as it's a voice acting role - the race-swapping of April O'Neil has.

But before we get into it, for context, check out the awesome new trailer for the film below:

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So, as you can see, April O'Neil is African-American in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem. But it's not the first time she's been portrayed as African-American - Rise of the TMNT was the first. Although many fans believe it was those original Mirage Comics, which may or may not be the case.

Either way, it doesn't matter. It shouldn't matter. But, according to many trolls on the Internet, it does, because there has been a wave of backlash on Twitter, with many calling out the race-swapping as being "woke", with some even saying that they hope the film will be "review-bombed" upon release.

But the vitriol doesn't end there, as some are even calling this latest depiction of April O'Neil "fat" (some variations of these insults are incredibly vulgar and uncalled for). There's nothing wrong with this new April O'Neil - at least not from a racial or aesthetic standpoint. For all we know, she could end up being a really annoying or poorly written character - but that's another matter entirely.

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Related: First Official Trailer For Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem Arrives

It's possible, though, that the controversy won't end there for Mutant Mayhem. Check out the full cast list for the film: below, which features two seemingly gender-swapped characters in Leatherhead and a version of Krang the Utrom:

  • Nicolas Cantu as Leonardo
  • Micah Abbey as Donatello
  • Shamon Brown Jr. as Michelangelo
  • Brady Noon as Raphael
  • Jackie Chan as Splinter
  • Ayo Edebiri as April O'Neil
  • Seth Rogen as Bebop
  • John Cena as Rocksteady
  • Hannibal Buress as Genghis Frog
  • Rose Byrne as Leatherhead
  • Ice Cube as Superfly
  • Post Malone as Ray Fillet
  • Paul Rudd as Mondo Gecko
  • Maya Rudolph as Cynthia Utrom
  • Natasia Demetriou as Wingnut
  • Giancarlo Esposito as Baxter Stockman

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Related: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Almost Got R-Rated Reboot With Joe Manganiello

Mutant Mayhem will be the seventh TMNT film, following Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993), TMNT, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014), and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.

As per Wikipedia, here's the plot for the film:

After years of being sheltered from the human world, the Turtles set out to win the hearts of New Yorkers and be accepted as normal teenagers through heroic acts. Their new friend April O'Neil helps them take on a notorious crime syndicate, but they soon get in over their heads when an army of mutants is unleashed upon them.

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Related: Where to Watch and Stream Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III Free Online

It stars Nicolas Cantu (Leonardo), Micah Abbey (Donatello), Shamon Brown Jr. (Michelangelo), Brady Noon (Raphael), Jackie Chan (Splinter), Ayo Edebiri (April O'Neil), Seth Rogen (Bebop), John Cena (Rocksteady), Hannibal Buress (Genghis Frog), Rose Byrne (Leatherhead), Ice Cube (Superfly), Post Malone (Ray Fillet), Paul Rudd (Mondo Gecko), Maya Rudolph (Cynthia Utrom), Natasia Demetriou (Wingnut), and Giancarlo Esposito (Baxter Stockman).

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem (2023) will be released in theaters on August 4, 2023.

Related: Paramount Confirms SEVERAL New Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Movies!

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