Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles VS The Real Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters (franchise)Image via Wikipedia

Let’s spend six hours surfing TVTropes.com: An examination of the five-man team in The Real Ghostbusters and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

My husband is studying for the bar.  This may seem to be a total non sequitur, but it’s relevant.  You see, whenever he throws himself into anything academic, he tends to spout nonsense during his downtime.  During his 80-page paper on Richard Nixon (which was only supposed to be 30…) he would give speeches on emus.  Tonight, he gave me a brief lecture on how original the film Ghostbusters was.

Now, he’s not wrong.  But I’m not genetically predisposed to saying, “Yes, dear,” so I challenged his premise.  Ghost-busting films were not new, even in the long-ago 1980s.  In fact, one clever YouTuber created a video showing what the Ghostbusters we’re all familiar with would have been like had it been filmed in 1954.  Fun for the whole family, if you’re up for explaining to the kids that generally speaking, black people really only talk like that when they’re trying to make money off the racist Hollywood machine.  You know, and that it’s 2010 and racism as comedy isn’t funny anymore.  Unless you’re on South park, because really, I’m shocked they haven’t made fun of this website yet.  Everyone’s fair game there.  But I digress…

Anyway, this nice little fake trailer uses the footage you’d expect from such classics as The Three Stooges and Abbott and Costello.  No real shock there — both the Stooges and A&C have battled pretty much everything there is to battle (including, in a roundabout way, each other).  But the trailer also takes clips from such films as The Ghost Breakers and Spook Busters.  Hmmm.  And let’s not forget the cheesetastic 1975 cartoon series The Ghost Busters, which was the reason our beloved show had to call itself “The Real Ghostbusters”.  Even the famous theme song isn’t wholly original.

But Chris conceded that point.  What was original wasn’t the concept, he said.  It was the execution.  The way the characters interacted.  I mean, just look at Venkman.

Sigh.  No, I said.  They’re a typical Five Man Band.  (And this is the point where you regret reading my article, because it’s the part where I start linking to TVTropes, and nothing good ever comes of that.  I really hope you don’t have a term paper due tomorrow…)  In a pinch, they can be neatly paralleled with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  He challenged me, but I shall prove it, not just to my adorable husband, but to the WORLD!   HAHAhahahaha…  Ahem.  Sorry.

So the Five Man Band is made up, obviously, of five characters: the Hero, the Lancer, the Smart Guy, the Big Guy, and the Chick.

Clearly, Peter Venkman is our Hero.  Sure, he can be a dick sometimes (coughmostofthetimecough), but he’s still “bold and charismatic,” so he fits the bill.  Plus, he gets the girl at the end, so there’s that.

Ray Stantz, as Peter’s polar opposite, is pretty clearly the Lancer.  He’s mostly there to balance out our hero, and be more-or-less the second-in-command.

If anyone ever doubted that Egon Spengler was the Smart Guy, he and/or she needs to be smacked upside the head.  I mean, really, people.

Winston Zeddmore is the Big Guy.  Now, it’s not because he’s black (see above).  It’s because while all the other guys are strictly academics, Winston is ex-military.  He will kick your ass in a tenth of the time the time it takes Peter to stare at it to his satisfaction and Egon and Ray to calculate the exact parabola it creates.

And the Chick?  Well, the obvious answer is Janine Melnitz, but you could make a fairly solid case for Louis Tully, as well, since he’s fairly useless and in frequent need of rescue.  He’s not in the cartoon much, though, so we’ll disregard him for this purpose.

As for the optional Team Pet?  Well, Slimer, of course.

Now, the second part of my thesis is actually a bit more difficult, because I went on to note that, as a typical Five Man Band, the Ghostbusters correspond pretty closely to the Ninja Turtles.  My incredulous husband wasn’t buying it.

And as much as I hate to admit it, this is where I have to concede.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the 1987 a...See, even in its most stereotypical-cartoon incarnation, the turtles didn’t quite fit the trope.

Oh, sure, it seems like they should.  After all, Leonardo is obviously The Hero, and Donatello is obviously the Smart Guy, and Raphael ought to be the Lancer, right?  He’s Leonardo’s opposite and the two of them are constantly butting heads.  But that would make Michelangelo the Big Guy, and that doesn’t seem quite right, does it?  So let’s make Raphael the Big Guy and Michelangelo the Lancer — after all, Michelangelo is Leonardo’s opposite in terms of responsibility, right?  Leonardo is the straight-laced responsible one, and Michelangelo is the partier who, let’s face it, is high most of the time — but still a magnificent fighter, which is a another point in the Big Guy column.  You could make a case that Raphael and Michelangelo are both combination Big Guy/Lancers… but that would be cheating, wouldn’t it?

Now, obviously, April is the Chick and Splinter is the optional Mentor, fine. You could even make a strong case for Casey Jones being a Sixth Ranger. But where does Michelangelo fit into the trope?

TVTropes gets around this by saying that instead of being a Five Man Band, they are a Four Temperament Ensemble — that is, the correspond to the four humors.  Doesn’t seem like they should be mutually exclusive, but OK.

All right, all right, I’ll explain.  Humor me for a second (haha, puns are funny) and pretend you care, ok?

See, the ancients of the Western World believed there were four liquids sloshing around inside us, and to be healthy, those liquids — the humors — had to all be in balance.  By extension, then, the humors have to be in balance within groups, too, with each member representing one of them: Sanguine, or blood; Choleric, or yellow bile; Melancholic, or black bile; and Phlegmatic, or phlegm.  Good times.  Can you imagine hanging out with your friends using this system?  “I call dibs on mucus!”

Returning to our question, “What, exactly, is Michelangelo?” the answer is, apparently, blood.  Michelangelo is Sanguine, making him the optimistic, cheerful, sometimes airheaded…. yeah, this works.

Raphael is Choleric, which exhibits leadership qualities, but is much more charismatic and quick to anger than our normal Five Man Band leader.  Lancers are frequently choleric, when there’s overlap.

Donatello is Melancholic, good-hearted, thoughtful, but sometimes overwhelmed by his own single-mindedness.  Again, Smart Guys are frequently melancholic.

Finally, our leader, Leonardo.  He is actually Phlegmatic (that is, called dibs on mucus).  He’s calm, stoic, and reactionary.

Interestingly, when you see where the humors tend to overlap with the Five Man Band, it would typically make Leonardo the Big Guy, and Michelangelo… the Leader.

I know, right?

So, sorry folks, but looks like this marital spat ends in a draw.  I was right — the Ghostbusters are your standard Five Man Band, nothing special about their dynamics there.  But Chris is right, too… You can’t quite make the parallel with the Ninja Turtles.  Those guys *do* defy the trope (although they fit so very many others).

And you’re about to spent the rest of your day surfing TVTropes.com, so I guess we all win… and we all lose.  Enjoy!

Laura Grow

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