Earlier this month, our own Joe Hennes wrote an overview of female Muppets played by women. It was a terrific article – by all means, go read it if you haven’t – but it left out one key character: Cotterpin Doozer (played by Kathryn Mullen), who I consider to be the most inspiring female Muppet of all time.
I realize that’s a loaded statement, because Cotterpin appeared in less than twenty episodes of Fraggle Rock, while characters like Miss Piggy and Prairie Dawn have hundreds (thousands?) of credits. But in those few appearances, Cotterpin made a bigger impact on the world of Fraggle Rock than most of its regular characters.
There aren’t a lot of female Muppets, which means that most of the ones we do have are defined by their gender. This is especially true if we look at the shows which predate Fraggle Rock. Miss Piggy is “the diva” on a stage full of dudes. Janice is “the girl” in the band. Prairie Dawn was “the little girl” on a show where everyone else got to just be a monster or a Bird or a grouch.
Obviously, Fraggle Rock was already doing better on that front before Cotterpin came along. Mokey and Red are each as individual as their male co-stars. But they’re still set up as a dichotomy – the calm vs. the storm, the artist vs. the athlete, the dreamer vs. the doer. They are very much presented as The Two Opposite Types of Women.
So it was a big deal when the show introduced Cotterpin in the second season. Cotterpin stands out for being a female character who isn’t at all defined by her gender. It’s an important part of who she is, but she’s not “the girl Doozer.” She’s the Doozer who doesn’t want to build, the first person in a generation to take a stand against the status quo. She could be the hero of her own series without question.
Even more importantly, she’s our biggest window into Doozer society, which makes it really significant that she’s a female character.
As I’m sure you know, there are three main races on Fraggle Rock – Fraggles, Gorgs, and Doozers. The other two are represented mostly by males. 2/3 of the Gorgs are men. If we count Traveling Matt as a main character, 2/3 of the main Fraggle characters are also men. But when it comes to the Doozers, Cotterpin is basically it.*
(*Yes, there are others like Flange and Wrench and Modem. But they aren’t true characters so much as they are stock Doozers. If you have a passionate defense of Flange or Wrench or Modem, by all means send it to me.)
When the creative team went to work on Fraggle Rock season 2, they decided to put more focus on the Doozers. That could have meant anything – a Doozer equivalent of the Fraggle Five who can’t wait to grow up and build, say, or a construction crew of adult Doozers – but it didn’t. It meant a kid who knew she didn’t quite fit into her culture, and who saw no choice but to carve out a place for herself.
This means that we’re almost always looking at Doozer society from an outsider’s perspective. In “regular” episodes, it’s that of the Fraggles – they don’t understand how Doozers live, they accidentally destroy the Doozers’ ecosystem, etc. To the Fraggles, the Doozers are mostly a mystery, so that’s how we normally see them.
But even in episodes that focus on the Doozers, we’re usually firmly on Cotterpin’s side. She’s the one who doesn’t want to take a helmet. She’s the one who doesn’t get caught up in the flooping craze. She’s the one who cares enough about Doozer history to explore its past. She’s the one who stands up for Fraggles in a court of law. Time and again, we see the Doozers the way Cotterpin sees them: as a stodgy, out-of-touch society that’s ready for a change.
But what makes Cotterpin really remarkable is that she actually affects those changes. She becomes the apprentice architect, influencing the physical shape of society. She brings the ancient Doozers into modern society, bridging the two cultures. She enters a singing contest with Wembley Fraggle, pushing her people to accept Fraggle activities for the first time.
One girl can change the world, and Cotterpin is proof.
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by Anthony Strand – Anthony@ToughPigs.com