Strong Female Character: April O’Neil
Written by AJ Dent, GeekGirlCon Staff Copy Writer
“This is great! I must really be onto something hot if they’re trying to kill me!”
In the very first 1987 episode of the cartoon series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, these are the words April O’Neil utters to herself while being chased by a gang through the sewers. Before we ever even see the Turtles, we’re introduced to April via her Channel 6 news report detailing a recent crime outbreak in New York City. April’s not just sitting at a desk behind the camera for the story, though. She’s in a science lab investigating a recent robbery of powerful equipment. This leads to the run-in with the gang, and her fateful initial encounter with the Turtles.
When I think of strong, fictional female characters, April O’Neil is the first one that comes to mind. Within minutes of this episode alone, she shows her priorities and grit: get in the thick of it and get the scoop. Not only does she not shy from danger, she welcomes it, at one point encouraging her nervous camera crew with a hearty, “Come on, this’ll be fun!”
April’s lifestyle and activities vary slightly in each incarnation of her—from the original comics all the way to the current cartoon reboot—but I’m most familiar with and fond of the Saturday morning cartoon show of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Unlike many leading ladies in superhero worlds, she is no mere damsel in distress. At the age of twenty-eight, she has an apartment of her own and an admirable career as an action news reporter. Always witty, curious, and bold, she frequently goes against the demands of her bumbling news station boss in order to do what’s best for herself and the city depending on her journalistic prowess.
April’s fashion style is nothing to mess with, either. Anyone who can pull off a bright yellow jumpsuit, white boots, and a mop of red hair must have some killer confidence! While she’s obviously physically gorgeous, her appearance isn’t a fallback plot device, nor the most noticeable quality to those around her. She assists the Turtles as the main link to the world outside their lair, gathering and sharing information on Shredder, the Foot Clan, and evil-doers in general so they can collectively stop their nefarious plans. With her drive, intelligence, and unique skills, she is a force for good in her own right.
Let’s recap April’s stand-out characteristics: She is a woman in her late twenties who wears bright colors, lives downtown in her own apartment, drops both knowledge and puns on people left and right, works as a reporter, never goes anywhere without her camera, hangs out with wise-cracking vigilantes, and uses her passions and profession to help others.
Yes, it’s true: I absolutely want to emulate her life. Shamelessly! (Let’s just hope Megan Fox and Michael Bay do this classic heroine justice in next year’s revamped Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film.)
Which version of April do you prefer? Do you have a favorite strong female character from a childhood cartoon show?