No, I haven’t seen the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. There’s part of me that wants to, but I think I can wait for the video release. It doesn’t look that good, and while it might well not be the worst TMNT-related feature (the Coming Out of Our Shells Tour existed, remember?), the apprehension I had about it last year has not been assuaged by commercials and reviews. Apparently the thing about the Turtles being aliens was something in an earlier draft that was eventually abandoned. Another rumor I’d heard was that neither Shredder nor Splinter is Japanese in the film, which is weird considering all the complaints I’ve been seeing about Hollywood whitewashing as of late. Not that the TMNT franchise hasn’t done that kind of thing before. Baxter Stockman was changed from a black guy in the comics to a white guy in the 1987 animated series, perhaps because they didn’t one of the few black characters to be a villain.
Actually, Bebop was black before being mutated, but we hardly ever see him that way.
And some early depictions of April in the black-and-white comics suggest she has dark skin, although it’s not entirely consistent. In the original cartoon, Shredder is from Japan, although he’s voiced by Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. From what I’ve read, the reports that Shredder is a white American in the new movie turned out to be untrue, or at least not entirely true. Actor William Fichtner is known to have claimed that he plays Shredder as an American scientist named Eric Sachs, obviously an Anglicized version of Shredder’s real name, Oroku Saki. People who have seen the movie, however, report that Shredder is actually a different character, although his real name and back story aren’t mentioned.
And Splinter takes on stereotypical Japanese mannerisms because he read about them in a book.
He’s a culture-appropriating rat!
Since I’m most familiar with the original cartoon and live-action movies, I would certainly name Shredder as the Turtles’ arch-nemesis, but apparently creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird didn’t really think this way. Inspired by the image of a ninja warrior with cheese graters on his arms, he was a significant part of the Turtles’ origin story, but never really intended to be a major recurring character. In this way, I suppose he’s sort of like Bluto, who only appeared in a single story arc in E.C. Segar’s original Popeye comics, but became Popeye’s constant rival in the cartoons. It often seems to be the case in cartoons (and live-action television, for that matter) that every episode or short more or less ends with a stalemate and no major advances for either the good guys or the bad guys. As repetitive as they can sometimes get, I think one reason why the villain is never taken out for good is that people often like them just as much as the heroes, perhaps sometimes even more so. There were episodes of the TMNT animated series without Shredder, but most of the more memorable ones used him.
He was killed off pretty quickly in the original comics, but he did return for a story where his body was reanimated by magic worms. Hey, makes just as much sense as how The Secret of the Ooze revealed that he survived being crushed in a trash compactor with no real explanation whatsoever.
It was presumably intended for Oroku to be Shredder’s surname, since in the comics he had a brother named Oroku Nagi. One episode of the cartoon, however, gave him a brother named Kazuo Saki, presumably a result of either sloppiness or the writers not thinking kids would understand Japanese nomenclature. There was another one I didn’t see where his ancestor was named Oroku Sancho, so it wasn’t even consistent. His mother also appeared on the show, living at a rest home in Florida for retired villains. It must have been an interesting experience growing up as part of the Oroku family.