Erin Mallory Long
Updated Aug 11, 2014 @ 12:13 pm

I have loved Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ever since I was a small girl on the playground arguing with the boys to let me be a turtle instead of April. (Sexism starts early—fight to be Turtles, girls!) I have two TMNT tee shirts, watched the cartoon constantly as a child and, to this day, truly identify with Raphael. So I was pretty psyched about the relaunch of the franchise for a new generation. While the new TMNT movie, which killed at the box office this weekend, looks pretty awesome, I learned the most valuable lessons during the first wave of turtle power. Here’s what the original heroes in a half shell taught me:

1. Always Be Adventurous With Pizza Toppings

To a kid (and well, to me as an adult) the turtles had it all: their own place, the ability to fight crime, no curfew and, of course, the freedom to order pizza whenever they want and with whatever they want on it. Here’s some proof:

Anything those turtles — well, Michelangelo, really — wanted on their pizza, I thought was a great idea. I had a pretty adventurous palette and my brother and I would often make weird things to eat together. But even we didn’t have the creative prowess (or nerve) to add tunafish, peanut butter and grape jelly to our pizza.

2. A Yellow Jumpsuit is Very Fashion Forward

Now, I never MINDED having to be April. I loved April, I just felt closer to Raphael’s attitude because, I, too, am cool but rude.

But man, could April rock a jumpsuit. I’m forever trying to recreate the magic that is her yellow jumpsuit and I’ll just never quite get there.

In the new movie she’s got a more subdued yellow leather jacket and I’ve gotta say, I don’t hate it. I like the idea of this actually just being an outfit someone would wear to casually cosplay at work.

3. Be Fearful of Exposed Brains Stuck Inside a Robot

Just like the 30 Rock episode “Grandmentor” where Liz Lemon tells her staff to not make anymore Krang jokes, I am often referencing Krang at inopportune times.

Krang is one of the weirdest villains I’ve ever seen and if someone pulls off a successful Krang Halloween costume I will APPLAUD them. Firstly, obviously Krang got help from Shredder but he’s so much creepier than Shredder. Of course, he’s a brain stuck inside a giant human-ish robot but also his brain-body has arms? He is so confusing to look at (and so evil) that it’s all just too much.

4. Pick a Color That Works For You and Stick to It

Leonardo has blue, Donatello has purple, Raphael has red and Michelangelo has orange. And that’s just how it stays.

I’ve always been so jealous that the turtles had such regimented clothing. I’d love to just have to make everything match. It’d be so fun to have earrings, hair, pants, shoes, everything just be one color. I’m a Raphael at heart but I’d have to side with Donatello on the color war. Sorry, Raph.

5. Giant Rats Can be Really Helpful and Smart

Splinter is the greatest friend and mentor any could ever have. I actually had pet rats briefly as a kid—not sure why, but I loved them—and I secretly hoped they were raising their own crime-fighting turtle family.

Even in the first series of live action movies I adored Splinter and would have followed him anywhere. Just look at his adorable mug:

6. Even the Worst Living Conditions Can Be Turned Into a Gnarly Pad

Let’s get one thing straight: the turtles live in the sewer.

Like, this is the TMNT playset I wanted: a sewer.

But they make it work. They made a sewer feel exactly how I imagine living in the attic of my childhood house would feel. They had space to roam around, no parents milling about (except Splinter) and no rules. They showed me that you can deal with any surroundings as long as your turtles love you. *awwwww*

7. No Matter How Terrifying Your Appearance, You Can Always Pass Yourself Off as a Human With a Trench Coat and Fedora

You know that joke about a bunch of kids piling on top of each other and putting on a trench coat and hat and getting into racy movies? Well, the turtles pulled that off while having BRIGHT GREEN SKIN and TURTLE FEET and TURTLE FACES.

8. All You Need in Life are Three Other Humanoid Turtles Who Will Fight By Your Side *cue more awwws* But really, all we need in life are good friends! Really! And that’s ultimately what we learn from these humanoid teenage turtles who live in the sewer and fight crime and eat pizza. All we need is a support system and these turtles had it. And, to any little girl out there who dreams of being a turtle, you can do it. At 29, I finally lived the dream when I got to be Raphael for Halloween. My husband was Rocksteady, of course. It was amazing.

(April pic , Megan Fox image , live action Splinter , 3 via, TMNT image via)