- This page is here for historical reasons. It may no longer precisely reflect my opinions, especially in the ever-changing landscape of LGBT representation in television series.
Some TMNT stuff really isn't for little kids.
- Mature for some occasional mild language, mainly because sometimes there's really no substitute for the word "bitch." This page is not, however, mature for gay moments themselves. C'mon, haven't you seen what year it is on the calendar? Also...
- The commentary in this gallery is analysis and criticism that has not been directly verified with the creators themselves. Not that I'm not still serious about it. :)
Gaydar is such a fun thing. It is intuition and cold-reading that draws on cumulative life experience. Anyone can develop it over time, but it can be especially strong in LGBT people themselves who have a personal frame of reference which makes them less likely to be influenced by cultural stereotypes. Gaydar is not just observing people's sexual or romantic personality traits, but also their "secondary" gay characteristics—personality traits not specifically of a sexual or romantic nature that are particularly common and familiar among people within the gay community and much less common outside of it, though these traits are neither necessarily universal among gay people nor exclusive to them. It must also be admitted that these traits gradually lose significance in Western society over time as LGBT people in general have become more accepted into the mainstream, yet the traits still retain significance in contexts where open discussion or acknowledgment LGBT topics may still be relatively uncommon or taboo, including in cartoons primarily for children. (As of 2017, children's television programs with frequent frank open LGBT content, such as Steven Universe, are still rare.)
A lot of people may not realize it, but the 2012 TV series has been a treasure trove of gaydar-tripping moments (more so than any other TMNT incarnation), especially in the first two seasons when it could be so strong that some of us were absolutely certain it had to be overt and intentional.
The exact canonical significance of all this is unclear, especially since the third season when the gaydar-tripping scenes became conspicuously fewer and further between, and the most affected characters in question seem to have been retooled over time. It could be that the writers were experimentally sending out signals to the various periphery audiences, seeing what would stick; but by the third season, for some reason, they almost completely stopped doing it (except for some tightly clustered exceptions).
This famously happened in another Nickelodeon TV series, The Legend of Korra, where easter eggs of romantic moments were snuck into the last two seasons, and its creators made their now-famous announcement of Korra and Asami's relationship only after the final episode had aired.
This page collects moments in the 2012 TV series that trip gaydar in all sorts of little ways. Of particular noteworthiness are:
- Michelangelo and Leatherhead. So much.
- Raphael, who at times could be such a sassy, catty tomboy big sister in a man's body.
- Raphael and Slash, especially after Slash mutates.
- Anton Zeck, who started out as a conspicuous expy of the openly gay Hollywood Montrose.
This scene was noteworthy in how it initially showed only Raph talking to an unseen male character, only to reveal Spike's first appearance. The way it was set up was not a subtle detail.
|Raphael: [I know you're a little worried about me. Look, I'm not gonna lie to you.] We've never gone into a fight like this, and...I don't know what's gonna happen. But you don't have to worry. I will make it back. I love you man.|
Raph being a fantastic bitch. Just one of the first in a collection of these moments.
|Raphael: Intel? You mean, April told you.|
The position of Michelangelo's Teddy Bear made this scene appear very symbolic.
|Michelangelo: Yeah. I get that a lot.|
Leatherhead drops the Pizza Noodle Soup pot...while Michelangelo is literally hanging off his arm.
A surprisingly sensual scene.
|Michelangelo: Whoa, buddy! Cleansing breaths! Cleansing breaths. Cleansing breaths.|
Perfect rapport, perfect trust.
|Michelangelo: You know you're in a safe place now, right?|
Mikey's words are uncomfortable, and yet Leatherhead absorbs every last word without antagonism.
|Michelangelo: I trusted you. And you freak out and attack my entire family!|
Now this is a gem. Mikey's eyes spontaneously dilate during an emotional scene. This happens when the brain releases dopamine, a chemical associated with emotional longing. This scene made it look like Mikey was already falling hard for Leatherhead, whether or not Mikey himself was aware of it.
|Michelangelo: I thought we were friends!|
Raph has met his match, and it becomes a sass-to-sass catfight. The "talk to the hand" symbolism is especially apparent.
|Karai: [I like your brother, Leo.] He's almost as entertaining as you.|
Raphael: Oh when this is over, I'll show you how entertaining I can be.
Raph does catty so effortlessly, doesn't he?
|Raphael: Hey, look, Leo. The Kraang are on our side now.|
Leonardo: Save it.
A powerful gaydar moment. Raph is simultaneously indifferent to April's presence, yet shares a strong implicit camaraderie with her as they appear to be having a brief girltalk moment.
|April: I tried to warn him.|
Raphael: You, too, huh?
On one hand, Raph is telling Leo he could see how he could think Karai is hot. But on the other hand, he's been demonstrating an intuitive understanding of women all episode, and been sassing, catting or catfighting nonstop. Is he comforting Leo, or messing with him in a very Raph-like way? I know that, as a gay person, if I were Raph in Raph's position, I'd probably still be telling Leo the same thing, just to rub it in one more time. :)
|Raphael: I can see how you can think she's hot. In an...evil kind of a way.|
Raph being such a good big sister.
|Raphael: Don't fight it. You'll thank me later.|
Oh Raph, you're such a bitch and we love you for it.
|Donatello: Analyzing sewage.|
Raphael: Who says you don't know how to show a girl a good time?
Bitingly sarcastic, mocking, cynical... Yup, that's Raph. But I can't help but think there was a grain of honesty in everything he said here, in a catty sister sort of a way.
|[Raphael: Wait... Do you think you still have a shot with her?]|
[Donatello: Well—I mean, not—]
Mikey, you do know all about love.
|Michelangelo: The heart's a soft muscle, man. A soft muscle. Squoosh.|
Spike loves Raphael—that much is apparent. But this gaydar moment is more apparent in hindsight after watching Slash and Destroy. Such love and devotion, and then he narrows his eyes, and...wow, just wow.
Raphael voguing like a prima donna. And he's so good at it, too.
Come on, vogue ♪ Let your body move to the music ♪ (Move to the music) ♪
Slash is saying more with his hands than he's saying in words.
|Slash: You and me. No goofing off. No joking around like your brothers. We'll be the ultimate ninja team.|
Raphael: Well that would be...awesome!
Slash was a total yandere, and they can never unring that bell. :)
|Slash: We may need to lose some dead weight.|
Raph is as close to Slash, as Slash is to Raph. In that brief moment, you can see the deep personal anxiety in Raph's eyes.
|Raphael: Your "work"? That mutagen warped your brain, Spike! This isn't you!|
Raph knows what he needs to do, but that moment of hesitation and conflict in his eyes. He deeply loves Slash, even now.
|Raphael: That's it. It's over.|
Slash: That's right, Raph.
One of the most painful moments in the entire series.
That unrefined grief and longing in Raph's eyes.
|Raphael: He's still out there.|
Splinter knows what it's like to lose a most beloved partner. It's telling how he so readily compares Slash to Tang Shen.
|Splinter: Raphael. Do you know what I do when I miss my loved ones from the past?|
Splinter never smiles...except when he does. But to smile just because Raphael is trying his advice? That's a very big Splinter smile, with warm fuzzies off the scale. His son loved and lost, but I wonder if Splinter's happy because his son loved a love as strong as what he once had with his own wife.
You sass her, gurl. You sass her good! Damn, what could have been if they'd only let this side of him develop further.
|Raphael: You got a long way to go, sister.|
Slash acknowledges Raphael after saving his life. Tell me your heart didn't skip a beat.
Raphael being such a tomboy big sister with his obnoxious little brother.
|Michelangelo: Avenge me. Avenge the beloved elf.|
The look of scorn and betrayal in Slash's eyes. He boths loves and hates Raphael.
|Slash: It's Slash now, remember? Good to see you again, Raphael. Miss me?|
They finally make up, but Slash doesn't feel he can come back. And Raph's heart aches all over again.
|Slash: I need to go my own way, Raphael. I think I'm better off solo.|
Leo's crush turned out to be a conniving vamp, but his sister Raph is still a bitch.
|Raphael: I told you!|
|Raphael: Some of us choose to be right all the time.|
Leonardo: Will you just go?!
|Zeck: So if I steel the helmet, you'll forgive me for my little mistake?|
Such animated body language!
|Zeck: Not on purpose! Anyway, you got that cool new eye. You used to be just another arms dealer, but now, it's like "Oo, look at the cool eyeball guy!"|
After watching Annihilation Earth!, Part 2 and seeing how tender Bebop and Rocksteady had become, this earlier scene in hindsight looks more like belligerent sexual tension. Not that we weren't wondering this when this episode first aired, given what Archie TMNT ended up doing with its Bebop and Rocksteady.
|Steranko: I'm going to pop your head like blueberry!|
Raphael being such a caring sister again.
|Michelangelo: I'm good. It's not my water balloon throwing arm.|
Michelangelo's memories of Leatherhead. You can already tell Mikey's heart has been aching, but then...wow. Possibly the single biggest gaydar-tripping moment in the entire series.
Mikey's really determined not to lose Leatherhead again. It kinda gives you goosebumps.
|Michelangelo: Not this time, buddy! |
Leatherhead: Yeah, I'm okay.
This may have been Raph's last tomboy big sister moment in the series.
|Raphael: Now you know how April feels.|
So Mikey describes his rear end as "sweet?" Interesting choice of words.
|Michelangelo: Hot! Hot! Hot! My sweet little turtle tush! Ow! Owie! Ow!|
Understandable first reaction after so long. But this is just the beginning.
Leatherhead: Heh, heh, it's good to see you too, Michelangelo. All of you.
Their first parting since they were reunited. Just look at that raw emotion.
|Michelangelo: Leatherhead, wait, hold up!|
Leatherhead sadly cannot wait or hold up. But judging from that brief look on his eyes, he's feeling the same as Michelangelo.
Michelangelo wanted Leatherhead to wait and hold up. Such love and separation anxiety.
His one and only priority upon return is wrapping his arms around that guy. It's sweet.
Leatherhead: My friend.
And now, we're noticing a pattern. Mikey literally threw himself into the guy's arms at every opportunity. Now that's passion.
|Michelangelo: Leatherhead! My big green buddy!|
Leatherhead: We made it, my friend.
They just don't stop manhandling each other, do they?
|Leonardo: It's time to celebrate!|
Donatello, Leatherhead, Michelangelo, Pigeon Pete, Dr. Rockwell & Slash: Booyakasha!
Mikey's reaction is instant, decisive, and strongly affectionate. And his colorful description of Leatherhead's face shows how in tune his mind and heart are with the guy.
|Michelangelo: Can't you see he's terrible? Just look at his adorable yet tortured gator face. Aw.|
The body language in this scene is unusually rich, especially for the third season. Left hand caressing face, locked eye contact, look of anxious worry, arching eyebrows adding to emphasis, and the sheer look of relief filling Raph's face. But scenes like these are increasingly an outlier in the series.
|Raphael: Slash, are you okay?|
Leatherhead gives Michelangelo a helping hand. A Mikeyhead moment as good as any. We almost never see Leatherhead smile so unambiguously. And Mikey certainly smiles a lot, but he doesn't always beam like this. Now this is chemistry, and the warm fuzzies are off the scale. But it's also frustrating when the series cannot be consistent in its portrayal of characters from appearance to appearance.