An underlying theme of the Muppets has always been finding acceptance for everybody, even trying to reform their villains. Kermit was struggling with his racial identity way back in the first season of Sesame Street, and the new film, The Muppets — which is a fabulously heart-warming must-see — follows the new character Walter’s coming out as a Muppet (a “very manly Muppet”). But the nebulous relationship between Kermit and Miss Piggy has served as a particularly compelling, albeit subtle, metaphor for couplings that are looked down upon in society.
Given conservatives regularly fear-monger that bestiality is inevitably down the slippery slope from same-sex marriage equality, it’s interesting that they have always given Kermit and Piggy’s interspecies love a pass. After all, being genital-less and felt-covered didn’t protect Tinky Winky from being called gay by Jerry Falwell, and he didn’t even have a love interest. Often by their own invitation, Kermit and Piggy have shouldered the burden of an “ick factor” as long as they’ve had a relationship, and more than ever it resonates as an allegory for the struggles of same-sex couples in a homophobic society.
The most obvious example of parallels with the LGBT community is in George Stroumboulopoulos’ recent interview with Kermit, in which Kermit talks about coming out about his attraction to mammals as a teenager. Stroumboulopoulos jokes there should be an “It Gets Better” campaign for amphibians, and Kermit quips back it would be called “It’s Getting Better Being Green”:
Piggy, meanwhile, has had to deal with many questions about her love life with Kermit. In a recent appearance on Chelsea Lately, she avoided probing questions from Chelsea Handler about what it’s like to have sex with Kermit, as if that kind of private detail is something she should share just because she’s a Muppet:
On other occasions, the couple has been more forthcoming about the complications of their relationship. In a promotional video for the new movie, Kermit and Piggy ponder whether they can produce offspring and consider perhaps adopting instead. Here also is a 2008 Morning Show with Mike and Juliet appearance in which the sheepish Kermit admits that they have engaged in some public displays of affection and Miss Piggy thanks him for “coming out like this”:
Lastly, flashback to 1993 when Kermit and Piggy sat down for an in-depth interview with Larry King. Piggy talks about the struggle of coming out to her fellow pig friends about loving Kermit. Some took it tough, but they said a frog was “better than an aardvark.” Kermit later denies his marriage to Piggy “for his fans,” hiding in a closet of his own. King also raises questions about potential offspring, and when he asks Piggy “what kind of child would it be?” she responds, “a loved one, Lawrence, a loved one.” She then defends interspecies love, saying, “If one has love in one’s heart, does it truly matter?”:
While Jim Henson might not have ever explicitly spoken out on LGBT issues, his legacy of promoting acceptance of others continues to grow and adjust to the challenges of every generation. Hopefully, the new Muppets film re-energizes the franchise and creates more opportunities for Kermit, Piggy, and their motley crew to fight bullying and stigma in their uniquely sweet way.