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Understanding the Bogus Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles–QAnon Conspiracy Theory

Pizzagate extremists are pushing a bizarre Ninja Turtles link — but I won’t let them get away with it

As of this writing, I have already downed two doses of Excedrin Migraine and a couple of 5-Hour Energies, yet my terrible headache persists and my ability to focus remains greatly impaired. Because for the last several hours, I’ve been trying to make sense of the supposed “connection” between the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the QAnon conspiracy theory.

To be clear, I don’t believe there is — or ever could be — any actual QAnon symbolism hidden anywhere within the vast media library of the Ninja Turtles, but when a colleague brought this subject to my attention, I had to investigate. I’m something of a Ninja Turtles fanatic, and the very idea that there was a whole avenue of Ninja Turtles that I was completely unfamiliar with was unacceptable to me. But, about 12 hours after beginning this journey, I really wish I’d just let this one go.

In an attempt to summarize the dystopian rabbit hole I went down, my journey started with this tweet from August, which featured a picture of a rather sweet-looking handkerchief that I regret to say isn’t part of my rather sizable collection of Ninja Turtles memorabilia.

In the picture, a bunch of circles and arrows highlight what are supposedly symbols alluding to Satanism and pedophilia. There is text that reads, “Four mutant reptiles that live underground and are obsessed with pizza,” which, I guess, is supposed to automatically make me suspicious. However, not understanding all the crazy lingo associated with QAnon and Pizzagate, I had no fucking clue what they were talking about. So, in an attempt to find an explainer, I discovered this.

While the video here is undeniably batshit fucking crazy, it did do a halfway decent job of helping me to understand all of the absurd connections these nutbags are making about the Ninja Turtles. Basically, just about everything from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles can be laboriously twisted into somehow relating to one of the pre-established elements of Pizzagate, which, if you need a reminder, is the conspiracy that says the Democrats run a vast pedophile network out of a D.C. pizzeria. 

Aside from the pizza, the theory says that the sewers the Turtles live in refer to the underground nature of the pedophile network and the fact that they’re teenagers is a reference to the trafficked children. The mutagen that transformed the Turtles is a reference to lubricant; April the news reporter refers to the mainstream media; and their master — a rat — is a reference to the Pied Piper, who led rats, and then children, to their doom.

Most ridiculously, the theory says that the Ninja Turtles being reptiles is a reference to the fact that the Satan-worshipping Democrats are actually giant reptiles that control our society. (The whole reptile thing isn’t even really one of the main ideas of QAnon, but that’s sort of why QAnon has become so popular — it takes a bunch of other conspiracy theories and gives them a central network. So, people who believe in Pizzagate, Deep State investigators, Sandy Hook truthers and even the people who believe in lizard men can all find a home under the QAnon umbrella.)

Undoubtedly though, the Ninja Turtles connection began because of their association with pizza, as “pizza” and “Ninja Turtles” is a pretty straightforward word association, particularly for people born in the 1980s. This is why, when Pizzagate was first cooked up in October 2016, it was only a few weeks before someone forced a connection to the Turtles. 

As for who is supposedly responsible for these messages, the theorists never seem to sufficiently explain that. For the most part, the Turtles “connection” is mostly things like, “Oh, they eat pizza? Interesting…” and that’s about it. The closest thing I can find to an explanation is that the elites in the media have planted secret codes and inside jokes throughout the various iterations of the franchise.

But because the QAnon network of conspiracies is so vast, it allows them to make basically anything an allegory for the fucked up shit they believe in. The Ninja Turtles aren’t special in this regard — similar theories exist about ice cream, pornography, 5G, Rober Mueller, Katie Perry, Home Alone and even Pixar movies. There is, however, a particular bit of irony when it comes to the connections made to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The QAnon conspiracy revolves around Donald Trump. It says that he’s the savior for these trafficked children and that a day of reckoning is coming where he’ll save them all. Yet, there’s a much more convincing case to be made that, instead of being code for QAnon and Pizzagate, the Ninja Turtles foresaw just how evil a Trump presidency would be. 

Much like how The Simpsons seemed to constantly predict the future, the original  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon was prescient on the subject of Donald Trump. Throughout that series, a handful of different characters were directly based upon Trump, and those characters were always fucked up evil guys. There was Donald J. Lofty, an out-of-touch billionaire who is obviously named after Trump, and whose money is wrapped up in all sorts of nefarious projects. Then there’s Fenton Q. Hackenbush, who looks and acts a lot like Trump and tries to illegally build condos in the New York City sewer system. There’s also MacDonald Crump, a rich scam artist who owns a chain of lousy pizza restaurants. And most prophetically, there’s A.J. Howard, a mutant slug that’s disguised as a billionaire real estate developer. Howard acts just like Trump, slapping his name on buildings, but instead of sounding like our 45th president, his voice is a straight-up impression of none other than Richard Nixon.

Clockwise from top left: Lofty, Hackenbush, Crump and Howard

Now, at the risk of sounding as conspiratorial as QAnon true-believers, I’d like to point out that I don’t think that the Turtles cartoon is some sort of predictive text that foresaw Trump’s presidency. Instead, these are simply Trump parodies that the writers put in because the Turtles live in New York City, and when a story called for an egomaniacal, empathy vacuum billionaire, no one fit the bill better than Donald Trump. 

As for the fact that Trump would later become a real-life supervillain, well, I’ll just chalk that up to coincidence. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to take some more Excedrin and go find that Ninja Turtles handkerchief on eBay.