How Margaret Thatcher changed the Ninja Turtles

The Blindboy Podcast is always a great listen for ridiculously entertaining counter-cultural explorations. Take the June 28, 2022 episode "Teenage Margaret Thatcher Turtles," in which host Blindboy Boatclub examines how the two-headed monster of Reaganism and Thatcherism transformed the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from a subversive post-modern indie comic into a cheesy tool of capitalist propaganda.

While I can't do justice to Blindboy's full hot take — you'll have to listen to that yourself, though trust me, it's worth it — that was one detail in particular that stuck out with me. As I learned on the podcast, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were actually known as Hero Turtles in Ireland andthe UK, thanks to a very British ban on ninjas and nunchuks. Fearing a violent uprising by the working class they so eloquently oppressed, British authorities wanted to discourage any kind of violent melee combat that might inspire the masses to revolt. Laser guns and spaceships were one thing; karate kicks and nunchuks, however, could arguably be fashioned by any ol' uppity Brit who allegedly wanted to start a riot. Hence: Ninja Turtles became Hero Turtles.

But that's not all! The infamous orange-masked nunchaku-wielding Hero Turtle known as Michelangelo also lost his weapon-of-choice, with censorious animators at the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) drawing grappling hooks over the nunchuks in every illustrated cartoon cell. (Because apparently grappling hooks were not an easily-fashioned melee weapon? Unclear.) This all came to a head with the 1991 release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, which features a scene in which Michelangelo trades his nuchuks for a pair of sausages.

Here's the the BBFC describes their own decision making in hindsight:

"In the credits sequence in Reel 1, chainsticks are wielded (or seem to be) after a shot of sausages hanging from the butcher's rail. Since there is real confusion between chainsticks and sausages this sequence needs to be carefully checked before cuts (if any) are listed. Ditto a sequence in Reel 2, where April tries out a pair of chainsticks; could they be sausages? If so, we would look pretty foolish (right Charlies, in fact) if we cut them!"

Another report states the then BBFC policy to remove these weapons, but warned that pragmatically it might be unwise to remove sausages used to resemble the weapon.

After contacting the distributor, the BBFC was reassured that all the sequences 'involved sausages not sticks'.

However, BBFC Director James Ferman thought there was still potential for the sequence to showcase chainsticks-type weapons, and the sausages would look like these weapons 'to any streetwise 8 year old'. The cuts list therefore included the following request to minimise any glamorisation of easily accessible weapons:

"After turtle takes down sausages and uses them as a flail. Reduce to minimum dazzling display of swinging sausages indistinguishable from chainsticks"

The Examiner reports for the video release include some criticism of the decision, with one report noting that "the sausage/chainstick confusion makes his [Ferman's] cuts list a tiny bit ludicrous to read".

So thank you, Margaret Thatcher, for protecting the youth from the violence of sausages. There's no such thing as society indeed.

British Board of Film Classification Case Studies — Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II

Teenage Margaret Thatcher Turtles [The Blindboy Podcast]