It occurred to me, as I listened to the theme of popular 1980s cartoon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the thirty-seven-thousandth time, that it will probably be the song I hear most in my lifetime.
I’m considering having the song played during my funeral. The thought of people wailing … and oh, will they ever wail … over my casket as lyrics about the “world’s most fearsome fighting team” harmonize with the anthem of their sorrow is just too delightful. It’s almost a shame I’m not dead already.
As you weep over my corpse, you can blame my 3-year-old daughter for having to listen to one of the most ubiquitous theme songs ever penned. Over the past few weeks, there’s not a minute that goes by when Arlie doesn’t mention something Ninja Turtle related. She’ll inform me that the poodle-sized toy of Leonardo her grandmother picked up at a thrift store is feeling sad, or that the Donatello action figure she insisted we buy her just passed gas, or that the large Raphael figure that previously occupied a shelf in my office has to poop. She’ll often insist that I impersonate one or several of those aforementioned toys. We’ll carry on conversations this way for what seems like hours. Of course, my growing insanity has made my perception of time a little wonky, so it’s impossible to tell exactly how long these sessions last.
I’m not sure how this obsession started. It seems to have formed out of nothing, emerged from the ooze like a quartet of sibling warrior reptiles. She comes by it honestly. Amanda and I were both 80s kids and therefore were brainwashed into loving the turtles through a constant bombardment of syndicated cartoons, toys, video games, cereals, fruit pies, clothing, movies, music, comic books, and just about anything else upon which they could slap a bandannaed turtle’s face. The cartoon was on a constant loop at my house, and you could often find both pre- and post-pubescent Adam parked in front of the television set watching any given episode for the umpteenth time.
But as far as I know, neither Mandy nor I did anything to specifically push the definitive pop culture icons of our childhood onto our progeny. I guess she may have seen one of the newer iterations of the characters in the toy store and asked about them, which naturally led to us pulling up a clip of the classic show’s main titles on Youtube, which then naturally led to us having to replay that same clip thousands of additional times.
Although I’m not crazy about having to listen to the same two-minute cartoon intro hundreds of times a day, but I do take pride in knowing my daughter is carrying on the fine tradition of obsessive geek fandom that was such an important part of my formative years. No doubt, she’s on the cusp of hitting up some Ninja Turtles sub-Reddits to express her dissatisfaction with minute 12 of episode five of season 13 of the original series, in which the army of low-paid animators mistakenly transposed Raphael’s red bandanna on Donatello. And as soon as she learns to write, she’ll no doubt be using her newly-developed skill to pen fan-fiction in which Leonardo marries Casey Jones, although Jones has secretly entered into a relationship with Krang. And after that, she’s only some cardboard boxes and string away from building her own nunchaku and traveling across the country to attend Wyoming’s 32nd Annual Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Con, featuring an appearance by the guy who performed the voice of Wingnut (but not Screwloose) in the original series. And, yeah, she’s definitely going to pay $35 for a signed photo. Like she could afford to pass that up.
Despite some of the frustrations that accompany any of a child’s interest, seeing my kid love something that meant so much to my own childhood is heartening. I can’t help but think about the pop culture loves I share with my own father: Star Wars, Godzilla … those Disney cartoons in which Goofy is supposed to be demonstrating something. No matter how different my father and I are, we share these affections and can always rely on them to act as a sort of common language.
Maybe, years from now, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles can be that common language between my daughter and me. It wouldn’t be the worst thing those mutant turtles wrought upon the world.
That would be the “Coming Out of Their Shells Tour.” Please don’t tell Arlie it exists.