The Great Muppet Theory

A couple of weeks ago, I watched The Muppets Treasure Island, and that got me started thinking again about my Muppet Repertory Company theory.

It is possible that I spend far too much time thinking about Muppets, but my brain is a funny place, and I love the Muppets.

Anyway, a couple of years ago I started rewatching the original Muppet Show and then the older Muppet movies, and the continuity bothered me. The origin story we see in the first Muppet Movie couldn’t have been true within that world because we know Kermit was on Sesame Street with Big Bird long before he was on The Muppet Show, and they were TV stars before they got the movie. And then with The Great Muppet Caper, we got yet another origin story of how they all met. And then yet another one in The Muppets Take Manhattan.

And that was when it occurred to me that none of these films were meant to be actual biopics within the Muppet universe. Instead, what we seemed to have was a repertory company made up of the Muppets, and in their first few movies they were playing fictionalized versions of themselves. It was like when they make a movie centered around a musical group or pop singer and it’s sort of supposed to be about them, but it’s not really. They’re playing themselves, though they’re really more characters with the same names who look like them, in a fictional story. That’s how Kermit could have met Piggy for the first time multiple times in different ways in different places. They started branching out and playing other characters with their version of A Christmas Carol.

The backstage parts of the original Muppet Show are the “documentary” part. That’s their real selves. The rest, aside from some fourth-wall breaking in the movies, is not meant to be real. One area where this matters is with the relationship between Kermit and Piggy. On the original Muppet Show, she has a huge crush on him, which he finds annoying. He’s somewhat afraid of her (since she physically threatens him when she doesn’t get her way), but he doesn’t show any sign of actually being interested in her, aside maybe from the occasional jealous moment when she drops her interest in him to focus on the guest star. It’s like he’s somewhat flattered by the attention but doesn’t actually return her affections.

But then in the movies they’re always thrown into a romance, possibly either because Piggy had it put into her contract or because the executives knew that might be a selling point. Either way, Kermit was stuck with it, and like a trouper he managed to play along even though he’s usually annoyed with her. There is a moment in The Great Muppet Caper when he breaks character during a romantic scene to go into director mode and critique her performance, like he’s miffed with her about what she’s doing on the set, and then he goes back into character, playing the romantic scene.

Somewhere along the way, though, it seems like the people writing the Muppets stuff have forgotten that this was the joke, that Kermit kept being thrown into romantic scenes with Piggy in spite of him not being interested, and they were treating them like they’d become a real couple. One of the more recent iterations of a Muppet show, the one that had them running Piggy’s late-night talk show and treating it like it was The Office, had them being exes who’d broken up but still had to work together.

Even as a kid, I didn’t like the idea of them being together. Now that I know more about relationships, it’s even worse. It’s not a healthy relationship when one member of the couple always gets her way by karate chopping the other member of the couple if he dares go against her every whim. I was kind of glad that he apparently got away from her, but I hated that they ever put them together in “real life” in the first place.

I’m not sure the current Muppet stuff even fits with the idea of the repertory company. They seem to be treating some of the movie events as canon, even though they all contradict each other. I haven’t watched the more recent movies since they came out, so that may be one of my summer projects, and then finish rewatching the original series and then rewatch the subsequent series.

And that is probably way more thought than this topic deserves. I just had to get it off my chest after groaning when Treasure Island had Kermit and Piggy playing a couple yet again. I’d thought we might avoid it for once, since there wasn’t a romance that I recalled in the book. But, no.

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