Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Spirituality

My kids used to grab paper and pens and create their own comics. Their scratchy designs would tell stories about their everyday lives. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem reminds me of those early cartoons. The animation style suggests the Turtles’ story is being created on the fly as they explore their identities, seek acceptance, and pursue wellbeing in a sometimes dangerous and threatening world.

Use one or more of these activities to explore the movie’s themes of acceptance, heroism, and overcoming hate.

Different Perspectives. The turtles live underground in the sewers. When they come out, they travel over rooftops or hide in convenience store ceilings. They view the world from these vantage points. Explore different perspectives with children. Lay on your side on the floor and notice how things look from that angle. Then switch to your back and consider how your view changes. Next, stand on a chair or table and take in your surroundings once more. Ask: What was similar and what changed as you looked at the room from different perspectives?

Finding Acceptance. The turtles want to experience typical teenage activities, like going to school, joining clubs, and attending dances. But they fear people will not accept them. As the movie ends, they enter school for their first day. Invite children to draw comics depicting what they think will happen next. Encourage them to imagine situations in which people are afraid of the turtles and scenarios where the turtles are welcomed and accepted. Ask: How would you want people to treat you on your first day in a new school?

Feeling Safe. One of the turtles’ desires is to feel safe. They don’t want to worry about how others might hurt them. Talk with children about fears and safety. Ask: What kinds of things are you afraid of? What helps you to feel safe? Who in your community might not feel safe? How could you help make your community a safe place for everyone? With older children, research a  marginalized group in your community that may feel unsafe and ways that you can help them. 

Overcoming Hate. Splinter, a mutant rat, dislikes humans and wants to protect his children from them. While fighting with Superfly, he is thrown to the ground and can’t get up to save his sons.  A human comes over to help him and they work together with other mutants to defeat Superfly. Invite children to imagine different ways that Splinter and the human could have interacted. Ask: If you are Splinter, what are you thinking? How do you feel? What do you want to happen next? If you were the human, what are you thinking? How do you feel? What do you want to happen next?

Being a Hero. In the beginning, the turtles want to defeat Superfly so that humans will see them as heroes and accept them. Later, they decide that being a hero is about helping others and doing the right thing, regardless of how the world views them. Ask children: How would you describe a hero? Invite them to draw images of themselves as heroes. Encourage them to include tools and symbols of the powers they would need to fulfill their hero role.



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