For nerds of the 1980s, like myself, a common question on the playground was, “Which Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle are you?” As a child, I chose Raphael every time. He was the coolest, right? His perceived coolness came from being snarky and rebellious, traits of a growing boy. The beauty of the ninja turtles is that as you grow, you can identify with different turtles or realize you see yourself as a combination of all four.
Childhood is for Michelangelo
Michelangelo has the quintessential kid mentality. The dude wants to have fun, is carefree, and loves nunchaku. There wasn’t a child alive when I was young who didn’t want a pair of nunchucks. The street fairs I would frequent sold the foam ones with the string for a chain. Do you remember those? I’ve pummeled a few friends pretending to be Mickie. Michelangelo is definitely the joy of childhood wrapped in a turtle package.
If you’d like to tie Michelangelo to childhood joy even further, in color psychology (fancy), orange represents youth, enthusiasm, and joy—all qualities of Mickie.
The teenage years are for Raphael.
This is a no-brainer. Your teenage years are full of angst and rebellion. It’s the time for you to test boundaries and push back on your oppressors (i.e., parents). Raphael is certainly your turtle spirit guide for these times. The red-clad turtle represents passion, strength, and rage—all that teenage attitude condensed into one sarcastic, snarky, angst-ridden turtle.
Early adulthood gives Leonardo vibes.
Once you enter the workforce, if you are motivated, you’ll be a Leonardo: the trustworthy, aspiring leader. You head into work looking to make a difference. To change the system from within and lead your teams to victory. It could be at work or in the household, but there is a Leonardo inside you at this time in your life. Leo is the Blue one, and Blue represents trust, dependability, loyalty, and security.
Seasoned adulthood is all about Donatello.
This is where I am in life. I am a full-on Donnatello. The smart ones are always the best. The guy tinkers creates, and is stuck in front of his computer all day when he isn’t fighting someone. For me, that someone is one or both of my kids after work. I am constantly tinkering and creating something. I work in front of a computer all day, and I am pretty sure I need glasses. The purple turtle represents wisdom, imagination, and ambition.
Why I identify with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
You would be surprised where you find representation when you are growing up. Hindsight is also 20/20. I look back on my love for the turtles and see much of myself and my childhood in those characters.
Stay with me.
These four young boys grew up in extreme poverty in New York City but in a family full of love. They are obsessed with martial arts, pizza, and pop culture. All they want is to fit in, have fun, make friends, and be accepted in the world. Not to mention, the turtles are always looking to rock the latest fit.
If you grew up in New York City in the 80s, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were your spirit
animals mutants. As a boy, I think back to my life in Brooklyn, NY, and much of my backstory matches the Turtles. We weren’t extremely poor, but we were by no means middle class. I was a (handsome) Black boy trying to fit in at school and in my own neighborhood. Young me was also obsessed with martial arts and pop culture. Those two loves manifested in adulthood as MMA training and writing for pop culture websites.
As I mentioned, Raphael was my guy up until recently when my daughter asked me who my favorite Turtle was. I blurted out, “Donatello…” I surprised myself with that answer. I’ve come to like Donnie’s nerdy determination, strength, and work ethic. I also love the color purple. Not the movie, the actual color. If you are a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fan and have asked yourself which turtle you like the most, explore why. You may reveal a little about yourself in relation to the pop culture fandom.
Which TMNT character are you?
Let me know in the comments your TMNT spirit animal and how they relate to you. Did you grow up identifying with the turtles like I did?