A funny thing happened at a late-night run to Target last night. Yes, admittedly the run was made because milk (and Reese's Peanut Butter Oreos to accompany it) was needed. But as with every visit to Target, I like to cruise through the toy isle just to see what the latest trends are, what's flying off of shelves, what the Guardians of the Galaxy tie-in toys look like, and what parents can't control their screaming kids.
But last night, I stumbled across an entire endcap dedicated to the new Michael Bay-fueled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film and must have spent a good five to ten minutes quizzically inspecting such a bizarre sight.
The movie itself has still yet to sell me. I've been a little vocal about it in the past here on SPT. But I found it interesting how the Turtles themselves are depicted in their action figure form. And more over, how totally weirded out (technical term) I was that the Foot Soldiers all came with assault rifles and handguns. No, I'm not bringing this up for conservative political fodder, but I bring this up because it's curious that the same company Playmates Toys refused to release toys related to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film that was released in 1990.
Because Playmates thought that the strong violence and dark tones in the film were too strong for their core audience of kids that were buying the toys. So yes, while the 1990 film featured such violent imagery as a Foot Soldier digging a staff into an electrical wire and starting a fire and showed teenage kids engaging in robbery (and smoking "regular or menthol" cigarettes which made zero sense to me at the then ripe age of nine years old) - apparently the new Michael Bay film is AOK according to Playmates Toys.
Take a trip with me back to 1990 and an article in the Los Angeles Times:
...Lieberman points out what she sees as a crucial difference. "Ten or 20 years ago, parents were around more to give kids values, to comment about the violence (children encountered)," she said. "These days, many kids are playing with these toys in a vacuum. And kids are often angry to begin with because they are left alone."
"A toy does not cause a child to be violent," countered Teigiser of Playmates Toys. "Children are going to act out their aggression whether with their toys or their fingers."
So 20 years ago in 1990, articles and psychologists were already concerned that parents weren't instilling values on their kids and the pizza-loving, "Turtles Fight with Honor" were proving to be problematic. And they referenced their perspective of 20 years prior to that, the 1970s. But it's curious that the Playmates Toys response in this article insists that the toy has nothing to do with the violence, despite the widespread conception that the company didn't release tie-ins to the original film.
But if, in 1990, the concern was that kids were showing up to preschool dressed like the Ninja Turtles, trying to replicate what they were seeing in how they played... what will happen after a new reboot with Turtles like this fun-loving, wise-cracking, right outta a Spike Lee Joint Mikey? And does this mean that, in 1990 parents were totally neglectful but in 2014 they're all over parenting and instilling values and definitely not the type to think parenting is handing their kids an iPad to shut them up? Progress! We did it! USA! USA! USA!
I guess the argument could be made that the Nickelodeon animated series-focused line is still running offering an alternative to the younger kids, but it's curious that since 1990 the company that found a live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles too violent is embracing this "dark, gritty, and sexy" reboot.
Again, this isn't meant to be an old man shaking his cane at the world or political discussion catalyst. But I just find the Bay Turtles fascinating and can't help just keep asking, "Why?" The whole thing will be interesting to observe, curious to see how this all shakes out. But it's worth pointing the SPT faithful toward an excellent article from and old friend, PANGEA's John Schulte, for more insight.