Heroes in a Half-Shell

Hannah Gadsby points out a huge Ninja Turtles plot hole in her new special

Sorry, Donnie.

Ali Goldstein / Netflix

After the success of her "anti-comedy special" Nanette, Hannah Gadsby didn't have much more trauma to tap. For her follow up, Douglas, she talks about different things entirely, ranging from the word "y'all" (she loves it) to the anti-vax movement (she hates it, obviously) to Renaissance art (she has a lot of opinions).

It's in this Renaissance section where Gadsby, a former Art History major, expresses what really angers her: the historical inaccuracy of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Gadsby's big beef? Donatello. First, she recaps the audience how the naming conventions of the Ninja Turtles work: They're all named after Renaissance artists. However, what most people conceive as the "Renaissance" is actually the "Italian High Renaissance," which only lasted from 1500 to 1520.

Gadsby speaking on Raphael's 'The School of Athens'


This is all fine and dandy considering that Da Vinci, Raphael, and Michelangelo all were at their peak during this period. But Donatello? He was long dead. In fact, he died in 1465, before Raphael and Michelangelo were even born. It may not be the most pressing issue for lovers of '90s cartoons, but them's fightin' words for Art History majors.

Hannah giving her hot Donatello take.


If Donatello isn't a contemporary of the other three, who should have taken that fourth spot? Hannah has an answer for that: High Renaissance painter Titian. Of course, she recognizes why that wouldn't work for a franchise with a target demographic of young boys: after all, if everyone calls Donatello "Donnie"... there isn't really a TV-Y7 equivalent nickname for Titian.

It's not the only issue Gadsby has with the heroes in a half-shell. She objects to their very nature as turtles, claiming they could only be tortoises, as experience with nunchucks must mean they have some sort of terrestrial experience beyond what a turtle could muster. While there doesn't seem to be a definitive answer to that, one can take comfort in remembering they are mutants too: there's no telling what they attained from that mysterious ooze.

This little aside is part of a larger theme in Douglas: halfway through, Hannah reveals she was diagnosed with autism. That's why little things like an anachronistic comic book turtle wielding a bo staff set her off, and she uses it as a jumping-off point to examine how we think about the world, how we communicate, and yes, quite a bit of art.

Douglas is streaming now on Netflix.

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