The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Paradigm


About halfway through Jonathan Lethem’s wonderful novel The Fortress of Solitude, two characters aimlessly riff on the archetypical qualities of The Beatles:

Now Dylan’s friend Linus Millberg appears out of the crowd with a cup of beer and shouts, “Dorothy is John Lennon, the Scarecrow is Paul McCartney, the Tin Woodman is George Harrison, the Lion’s Ringo.”
“Star Trek,” commands Dylan over the lousy twangy country CB’s is playing between sets.
“Easy,” Linus shouts back. “Kirk’s John, Spock’s Paul, Bones is George, Scotty is Ringo. Or Chekov, after the first season. Doesn’t matter, it’s like a Scotty-Chekov-combination Ringo. Spare parts are always surplus Georges or Ringos.”
“But isn’t Spock-lacks-a-heart and McCoy-lacks-a-brain like Woodman and Scarecrow? So Dorothy’s Kirk?”
“You don’t get it. That’s just a superficial coincidence. The Beatle thing is an archetype, it’s like the basic human formation. Everything naturally forms into a Beatles, people can’t help it”’
“Say the types again.”
“Responsible-parent genius-parent genius-child clown-child.”

Projecting John, Paul, George, and Ringo onto the members of other famous quartets is just the kind of useless minutia I can’t help but spend hours contemplating; in fact, the margins of my high school and college notebooks were already filled with like-minded endeavors (you know, which members of the Full House family correspond with which members of the Wu-Tang Clan… the usual). But I have to admit, the individual personalities of the Beatles lend themselves better to generalization than just about any other — in many cases, the comparisons practically draw themselves. Others are a little clumsier, requiring you to shoehorn certain characters to make everything fit. As Linus explains, some groups may have two Georges and no Ringo, etc. Regardless, it’s an endlessly entertaining time-waster.

‘I didn’t make this s–t up,’ says Linus. ‘It’s like some essential human grouping pattern.’

And, while I have the standard quota of Beatles knowledge that you’d pretty much expect of any post-WWII citizen in the Western hemisphere, I can’t fully connect — I was born in 1987, not 1957. The connotations and identities associated with each Beatle are mirrored in my perceptions of a different group — my beloved Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Surprisingly, or perhaps not, if you buy the presumption that the Fab Four represented certain universal personality types, there is a very noticeable correlation between the Beatles and the Turtles.

Leonardo is Paul McCartney

The idealized leader — dedicated, valiant, decisive. Linus describe this type as the “responsible-parent.” Personally, the Leos and Pauls of the world tend to bore me a little because of their righteousness, integrity, and bland nobility, but your mileage may vary.

Raphael is John Lennon

Raphaels/Lennons are dynamic characters, often visionaries or explosive rebels. They are bold, creative, intense, and often over-assertive. As Linus explains, “everything revolves around John.” They also tend to be funny in a dark sort of way, and emotionally or spiritually troubled.

Donatello is George Harrison

Donatello/Georges may fly under the radar at times, but they are integral to the group’s success: they are intellectual, introspective, and supremely talented. Where would these respective groups be without Donatello’s technical know-how or George’s understated contributions? They’d be totally f’ed, that’s where they’d be.

Michelangelo is Ringo Starr

Linus’ “clown-child” brings a much-needed dose of levity and humor. Michelangelo/Ringos are fun, if a little unsophisticated, and generally don’t take themselves quite as seriously as the others (although their flippancy may mask deeper, more complex emotions). As the TNMT theme song states, a Michelangelo may indeed be a “party dude.”
Well, there you have it: the four archetypal personalities. Below you will find my attempt to project these onto a series of other famous groups from all realms of pop culture and beyond. Feel free to comment with your own suggestions and additions! But remember to take it extremely personally if you disagree with any of my choices. This is the internet, and I’m expressing an opinion, so I deserve to be liberally criticized and attacked.

Boy Meets World
Cory – Leonardo
Shawn – Raphael
Topanga – Donatello
Eric – Michelangelo

The Channel 4 News Team
Ron Burgundy – Raphael
Brian Fantana – Leonardo
Champ Kind – Michelangelo
Brick Tamland – Michelangelo
(The lack of a true Donatello is probably why the News Team fell to pieces so quickly after Ron’s departure.)

Jerry – Leonardo
Elaine – Leonardo
George – Raphael
Kramer – Michelangelo
(Jerry and Elaine are both Leonardos — that’s why they didn’t work out together.)

The Simpsons
Homer – Raphael
Marge – Leonardo
Bart – Michelangelo
Lisa – Donatello

The Ghostbusters
Egon– Leonardo
Ray – Donatello
Peter – Raphael/Michelangelo
Winston – N/A
(The Ghostbusters were wholly functional as a trio, as evidenced by the first half of the original movie, because Peter Venkman is so badass he pulls of a Michelangelo and a Raphael simultaneously. However, they weren’t harmed by the addition of Winston, because he’s just a cool dude who played by his own rules.)

Grunge Bands
Pearl Jam – Leonardo
Nirvana – Raphael
Soundgarden – Donatello
Alice in Chains – Michelangelo

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Frank/Charlie – Raphael
Dennis/Dee/Mac – Michelangelo
(This highly unstable balance is the reason for this group’s constant volatility and lack of cohesion.)

The Four Horseman (Wrestling)
Ric Flair – Raphael
Arn Anderson – Leonardo
Barry Windham – Donatello
Tully Blanchard – Michelangelo

I Love Lucy
Lucy – Raphael
Ricky – Leonardo
Fred – Michelangelo
Ethel – Donatello
(I’m being pretty generous toward Ethel, here. I kind of hate her.)

Mount Rushmore Presidents
George Washington – Leonardo
Thomas Jefferson – Donatello
Abraham Lincoln – Raphael
Theodore Roosevelt – Michelangelo

The Hangover
Phil (Bradley Cooper) – Raphael
Stu (Ed Helms) – Leonardo
Alan (Zach Galifianakis) – Michelangelo
(This group really needs a Donatello. I would say that’s why they’re always searching for Doug, but he kind of seems like a tool.)

Monica – Leonardo
Chandler – Raphael
Joey/Phoebe – Michelangelo
Rachel – Donatello
Ross – Krang

The Who
Roger Daltrey – Leonardo
Pete Townshend – Raphael
John Entwistle – Donatello
Keith Moon – Michelangelo

South Park
Stan – Leonardo
Kyle – Donatello
Cartman – Raphael
Kenny – Michelangelo

Famous Italian Artists
Leonardo da Vinci – Michelangelo
Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi (Donatello) – Leonardo
Michelangelo Buonarroti – Raphael
Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (Raphael) – Donatello

Sex and the City
Carrie – Leonardo
Samantha – Raphael
Charlotte – Donatello
Miranda – Michelangelo
(I’ve never actually seen Sex and the City, so, I dunno — you tell me.)

The Godfather Sons
Michael (Al Pacino) – Leonardo
Sonny (James Caan) – Raphael
Fredo (John Cazale) – Michelangelo
Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall, informally adopted son) – Donatello

The Big 4 Thrash Metal Bands
Metallica – Leonardo
Slayer – Raphael
Megadeth – Donatello
Anthrax – Michelangelo

Fantastic Four
Mister Fantastic (Reed Richards) – Leonardo
Invisible Woman (Susan Storm) – Donatello
The Human Torch (Johnny Storm) – Michelangelo
The Thing (Ben Grimm) – Raphael

Vincent – Leonardo
E – Donatello
Drama – Raphael
Turtle – Michelangelo

Full House Adults
Danny – Leonardo
Jesse – Raphael
Joey – Michelangelo
Rebecca – Donatello

Scooby Doo
Fred – Leonardo
Daphne – Raphael
Velma – Donatello
Shaggy/Scooby Doo – Michelangelo

Gumby – Leonardo
Pokey – Raphael
Prickle – Donatello
Goo – Michelangelo

Tommy – Leonardo
Chuckie – Raphael
Phil and Lil – Michelangelo
Spike – Donatello
(Phil and Lil are like the most worthless Michelangelos ever. They suck.)

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