Gonzo doesn’t have to worry about Camilla and his other chickens anymore, because the Muppets are officially going to be eating less chicken. In a Facebook note posted Friday evening, The Jim Henson Company, which currently offers toys in Chick-fil-A kids’ meals, announced that will no longer partner with the fast food chain on any future endeavors because of its anti-gay policies:
The Jim Henson Company has celebrated and embraced diversity and inclusiveness for over fifty years and we have notified Chick-Fil-A that we do not wish to partner with them on any future endeavors. Lisa Henson, our CEO is personally a strong supporter of gay marriage and has directed us to donate the payment we received from Chick-Fil-A to GLAAD. (http://www.glaad.org/)
It should come as no surprise that the Henson Company has taken this position, because the Muppets have long supported diversity in all its forms. Notably, Kermit and Miss Piggy’s interspecies relationship has always been a compelling allegory for non-traditional unions, like same-sex couples, and last year, Kermit even admitted that he had to “come out” as a mammal lover. If a group of entertainers as warm and inviting as the Muppets don’t want to affiliate with a company, that’s a very large indicator that its policies aren’t good for society.
It has been pointed out that the Jim Henson Company does not actually own The Muppets — The Walt Disney Company does, and has not made any comment about Chick-fil-A. Still, the Jim Henson Company is run by Henson’s children, who speak on behalf of his original vision for his beloved cast of characters.
Back in December, Fox News Business host Eric Bolling led a discussion as to whether the new Muppets film (The Muppets) was “brainwashing” kids to hate Big Oil and capitalism in general. Days later, Bolling “apologized” to “Froggy,” a fake Kermit puppet he had with him, challenging the Muppets to debate his claims further. Kermit and Miss Piggy finally responded to Fox News this weekend at a press conference in the UK, highlighting that the film features a gas-guzzling Rolls Royce and questioning whether Fox News is even “news.” Watch it:
Life’s a happy song, but not when Fox Business is singing along. The network is upset that the new Muppets movie, The Muppets, features an oil tycoon as a villain, with various contributors complaining last week that the film amounts to “indoctrination” of young people into “hating corporate America” that borders on “Communist[ic].” Dan Gainor of the conservative Media Research Center agreed with host Eric Bolling that “liberal Hollywood is using class warfare to brainwash our kids” and the discussion rambled on from there. Watch it, via Media Matters:
If any of these talking heads had actually seen The Muppets, they would know that Tex Richman (played by Chris Cooper) isn’t out to destroy the Muppets because he wants oil, but because he wants only money and despises love. In his rap song “Let’s Talk About Me,” he tells you that all there is to him is that “I got mo’ money.”
The discussion unraveled into attacks against President Obama, the 99 Percent movement, and Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA). Andrea Tantaros, host of “The Five” over on Fox News, implored that Tex Richman embodies “The American Dream,” and Bolling suggested that teaching that wealth is bad amounts to Communism.
The Muppets, on the other hand, offers a very simple message of friendship and love to its viewers in its final number:
We’ve got everything that we need, we can be whatever we want to be. Nothing we can’t do, the skies are blue when it’s me and you and you and you. Life’s a happy song when there’s someone by your side to sing along.
It’s nothing new for Fox News and Fox Business to defend corporate interests, but who knew they seemingly oppose the unimpeachable messages of cooperation that the Muppets have been promoting for decades?
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.
The trailer for the new Muppets movie looks uniformly charming, and I’m glad to see that Miss Piggy’s still a bit of a brawler:
But really, I think my most powerful interest in this, and in Jonah Hill’s 21 Jump Street reboot, is how nostalgia is functioning here. Jason Segel and Hill have been key, if not the single most important participants, in the creation of the movies that have defined the post-college years of my generation. Now that they have power, they’re continuing to make those kinds of movies, but they’re also rebooting and reconfiguring the cultural artifacts of their own childhoods.
Maybe that’s what happens when culture suddenly shifts and admits folks who are not conventional marquee idols to the ranks of reliable box-office draws. Maybe one of you, in this case Seth Rogen, goes out and stars in a superhero movie. But mostly, you fulfill all the fantasies you had when you were a kid, because who knows how long the moment will last. I think Segel might have the best chance of sticking around as a writer if not as an actor. Forgetting Sarah Marshall doesn’t have the critical cred of Knocked Up, but the scene where Kristen Bell explains why she left Segel’s character may be the best depiction of a woman in the Frat Pack’s ouvre, and I’ll be curious to see what his script for The Five-Year Engagement looks like.