In depth Analysis of the Hollywood Movie: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1990 by Steve Barron
It has been recently brought to my attention that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies warranted a Marxist reinterpretation. Here is my attempt at unlocking that series’ revolutionary potential…
The year is 1990 world profits begin to rebound with the further Neo-liberalization of the western welfare states. The reign of both Thatcher and Regan will set the global economic stage to come; changing the face of post-fordist economics towards a future of unforeseen austerities, but the world is too young to foresee its fate. It is at this historical junction that the setting of the TMNT starts within New York City. Through a news broadcast the introduction of the “FOOT” organization is made to the audience. FOOT is understood to be a secret underground crime organization that originated from Japan. An omnipotent and omnipresent organization of black masked individuals (like the Bunraku puppeteers that controls the puppets of society) that are the sole cause for all crime related activity from petty street crime to large scale crime including what one suspects as corporate and political crimes.
As April O’Neil Narrates:
“Much more than just a series of small, isolated incidents, it’s apparent an organized criminal element is at work. And at the moment, business is good. So good, in fact, there appear to be no eyewitnesses to any of these crimes…” “Police switchboards have been swamped with the angry voices of more and more citizens who have fallen prey to the recent surge of crime that continues to plague the city. Instead of getting better, things have gotten worse…” “Many don’t know they’ve been victimized until it’s too late…” “But whoever is behind these crimes, one thing is certain. These are much more than just a series of random incidents…” “Crimes without criminals?” “An invisible gang at work?” “Who are we going to call?” “Unfortunately, the police are the only ones available to combat what some are dubbing ‘the silent crime wave.’” “But perhaps the most disturbing silence is that coming from City Hall.”
There is no one you can call for the “crimes” are systematically imposed and integrated to allow that very same system to function. Business IS good, good enough for the people to turn a blind eye towards the exploitation, and there is a price to pay for such flawless operation of the system. The city is silent precisely because they are working for the city itself. The FOOT (CIA) keeps the capital flowing with any means necessary.
This level of corruption was hinted at with the scene in which television reports by April O’Neil on the organization was censored by the chief of police himself, one then begs the question, who or what organization would have greater authority then the body of law and security itself? From this perspective, the FOOT organization can only be interpreted as Capitalism’s Invisible Army (CIA). A hidden organization, created by the system for the system, with the sole purpose to create the space in which class struggle and antagonisms can act out, through the transgression of the law that binds normal citizens, without disrupting the flow of capital.
Only through this interpretation can the motive behind the FOOT organization begin to make sense, it is also important to note that this interpretation fills in the gap left behind by the prime evil character the brain known as General Krang in the animated series(the prime supreme antagonist that fills in for the role of materialized Capital itself; a great unknown alien force that drives all crime and corruption) which is missing in the Hollywood movie, hence the gap is filled back in with capital itself.
From this perspective, the story of master Splinter takes shape. Splinter takes on the role of the incomplete master. Splinter’s master (Master Yoshi) was the first true revolutionary, the gorilla terrorist, whom moved to America from Japan to lead on the insurrection as its vanguard, to bring down the system from the inside. Before he was able to bring forth his plan, the FOOT (CIA) caught wind of his plan and led by its main agent, Shredder, (the one who shreds, to dispose, to erase) terminated the resistance before the attack can commence. This termination also meant that his knowledge could not be fully transferred to Splinter and hence Splinter can only pass on incomplete knowledge to the turtles (the ones now given the task to carry on the original vision).
Splinter (the thorn to society, a splinter group or splinter’s group, the role of the thorn in the lion’s foot) carries on his master’s original vision and trains his own gorilla terrorist group called the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or TMNT. Each member is named after a pinnacle cultural juggernaut of the renaissance (the western understanding of the birth of cultural society) signifying their roles to break through the very dialectical and diachronic deadlocks of 1990’s society and lead humankind to its next cultural renaissance of the new millennia (a group that is both biologically and evolutionary far superior to the human race to lead society).
As Master Splinter Narrates:
“When we were forced to come to New York I found myself for the first time without a home wandering the sewers, scavenging for whatever I could find. And then, one day I came upon a shattered glass jar and four baby turtles.” “The little ones were crawling into a strange glowing ooze from a broken canister nearby. I gathered them up in an old coffee can and when I awoke the next morning I received a shock, for they had doubled in size. l, too, was growing, particularly in intellect and I was amazed at how intelligent they seemed. But nothing could have prepared me for what happened next. One of them spoke.” “More words followed, and I began their training, teaching them all that I had learned from my master.”
It is neither the turtles’ size nor their physique that makes them dangerous but it is their intelligence. An a priori mastery of the human English language with a conception of self-awareness that is beyond the human; “Cognito ergo sum”, it is the word that came first, before master and student, turtle and ninja.
As Master Splinter Narrates:
“Were you seen?” “In this you must never lapse. Even those who would be our allies would not understand. Our domain is the shadow. Stray from it reluctantly. For when you do, you must strike hard and fade away without a trace.”
In their struggle they have no allies, regardless of either the left or the right, when your enemy is capital itself, you become the enemy.
They reside perpetually outside and inside of society, the sewers or society’s void, (the place where shit disappears to, the infrastructural excess in which society knows is there but rejects out of common consciousness) where they wait for the coming insurrection that would never come (the story of the first and the beginning of the second movie).
As narrated by Shredder:
“I do not understand why do the turtles troubles you master? They have not been seen in many days” “Something you described about their fighting, something familiar, something from the past”
It is the turtles’ revolutionary past which they have forgotten that inspires fear in Shredder. It is this fear that drives Shredder to seek the destruction of the turtles. Power is something that can only be given; it only takes one moment of revolt to render even the most powerful impotent.
As Master Splinter Narrates:
“I am proud of you, my sons. Tonight you have learned the final and greatest truth of the ninja that ultimate mastery comes not of the body but of the mind. Together, there is nothing your four minds cannot accomplish. Help each other. Draw upon one another. And always remember the true force that binds you that which I gladly return with my final words. I love you all, my sons.”
The struggle to revolution is always not a physical one for one can never truly see past the presupposed totality of that moment of struggle. The emphasis on mediation is an important one, one must over fixate at the intended goal. The key here is anamorphic projection of the very limitations of capital that prohibits any resistance to it.