First, everyone’s read “The Book I Never Wrote: The Secret Origins of Tough Pigs” by Danny Horn, yeah? Because it’s incredible, but in particular “Chapter 1: Toward an Unnecessary Theory of Muppet Sexuality” is especially relevant for this whole Pride Month series.
To find queerness—and especially asexuality—in the Muppets, we have to find who is ignorant of and/or actively rejecting the cis-hetero-monoga-normative “relationship escalator” of 1. Find Someone 2. Get Married 3. Have Babies 4. Live Happily Ever After.
I wish I could say I identified with Fozzie from an early age, but it’s really only in retrospect that I see so much of myself in him. His optimism. His loyalty and unabashed love for his friends. His anxiety. His determination to make a place for himself in the artistic career he loves, despite countless obstacles (ask me how many rejection letters I have on my novel). It was actually here in the ToughPigs forums that I first saw someone suggest Fozzie as asexual (commonly shortened to “ace”), and I loved it immediately. The evidence is all there.
In The Great Muppet Caper, he invites himself along on Kermit and Piggy’s date (see “Movin’ Right Along” episode “Fozzie doesn’t know how dates work”). I haven’t gone so far as to invite a whole Happiness Hotel-ful of weirdos onto someone else’s date, but I have been that oblivious third wheel.
Perhaps the most well-known example is the Raquel Welch episode of The Muppet Show. Fozzie couldn’t be more obviously uncomfortable with this gorgeous woman singing a sexy ballad to him, holding him close, and inviting him up to her dressing room (“Could I bring a friend?”). But, as Matthew Soberman beautifully explains in the 40 Years Later recap, they end up having more in common than this odd couple might suggest. Fozzie’s entire arc in that episode is about trying to “meet his true self”and boy howdy if that isn’t the queer journey in a nutshell.
And did you forget about Fozzie’s Maxim interview? Because I sure did!
M: You also appear with the beautiful Salma Hayek in the movie. Would you rather date a bear or a human?
F: I am a very shy bear. Ms. Hayek was so beautiful, I couldn’t get up the courage to even speak to her, though I did let her wear my hat. As for dating: At this point comedy is my only love. Unfortunately, it’s unrequited.
But to me, the most poignant of all is in The Muppets Take Manhattan and Fozzie’s interaction with Beth (whom I will refer to as Beth Bear to avoid confusion).
I’m demisexual, which is commonly defined in ace terms as needing a strong emotional connection before sexual attraction is felt. For me, it means that my emotional and physical attraction to someone will always be at the same level.
Under different circumstances, Fozzie might be totally happy to snuggle with Beth Bear. For all we know, he could be getting cozy backstage with Sweetums and Afghan Hound and Scooter in a platonic cuddle puddle, because he’s known them for years and feels comfortable with them. But he just met Beth Bear! And she starts foisting physical closeness upon him with barely an introduction and no ask for consent? I’d shakily call out into the void for my bestie, too!
“But Beth Human,” I hear the objectors cry, “what about Becky? Fozzie had a girlfriend in the 2015 sitcom!” To which I scowl and ask: do you think ace people don’t have relationships?
First, asexuality a big ol’ spectrum encompassing so many different levels and kinds of sexual attraction and/or lack thereof. Secondly, asexual and aromantic are two different things. Some people are both. Some people are asexual and otherwise straight (or hetero-romantic). And some people (like me) are somewhere on the ace spectrum AND some other flavor of queer. As my friend and all-around excellent human being Danny Burrow said the other day:
The A is for Asexual because asexuals are an absolutely vital part of queer liberation. For one thing, they help us understand that we are not fighting for the right to **** who we want, we are fighting for our personhood to be completely divorced from our intimate relationships. We are whole people who deserve to be full members of society regardless of our sexual behavior. That’s why marriage equality was never going to be enough. For another, they gave us the split model of attraction, an essential framework that helps so many of us understand our own attractions, homo and hetero alike. This is the value of diversity, to access new and valuable ways of knowing. Within the queer community, diversity means listening to and valuing asexual people. Happy Pride to everyone, including ace folks, and I hope you’ll all join me in shutting down any A is for Ally nonsense.
In episode 108, Kermit, bless his misguided heart, wants to protect Fozzie from himself, saying, “One of the things I love about Fozzie is his innocent, childlike quality. That’s also why I have to look out for him. He’s not ready to move in with anybody, much less someone he met twelve weeks ago.”
This infantilization from society at large and well-meaning loved ones is something most ace folks know all too well. By the end of the episode, Kermit admits that he doesn’t think Fozzie’s ready to move in with anyone, Fozzie puts the pieces together, and stands up for himself in what might be my favorite moment of the short-lived sitcom:
Ready? Why not? I’m an adult. Oh, wait a minute, you don’t think I’m an adult, do you? You don’t think I’m mature enough. Well, I am mature, so… nyyeeah to you! You don’t have to watch out for me; I’m not the junior partner in this friendship, I’m a co-president. And I own stock, and have a corner office, and… my metaphor’s falling apart.
Fozzie and Becky navigate the ups and down of their relationship with praiseworthy effort, but it eventually fails. It is perhaps the biggest #AceMood of all to struggle to navigate your asexuality within the context of cis-hetero-monoga-normative relationship expectations, and that’s the vibe I get from Fozzie and Becky. But if you can manage to communicate to someone your needs, your wants, your particular quirks and anxieties and kinks and triggers, to receive the same from them, and to create something new and strange together that works for both of you, something that may not look anything like what the rest of society considers a romantic relationship—I think that’s relationship anarchy at its core.
I could 100% see Fozzie filling out a form for someone, like:
I am interested in:
- platonic sleepovers with jammies and nightcaps and teddy bears
- ukulele or piano duets
- DM conversations consisting entirely of memes
- head scritches
- Emergency Validation Mode (if one of us is having a rough time, the other floods them with reassurances and compliments and heart emojis)
When I say I wish I could have seen myself in Fozzie at a young age, it’s because I wish I’d had any canonically asexual representation at all when I was growing up. My middle school bestie and I found each other and clung to each other like magnets before we had the language to understand why, two total weirdoes at the age when everyone just wants to fit in. Fast-forward twenty-something years, reconnecting with each other over text message, this friend and I came out to each other as being on the asexual spectrum. Then we had this shared realization of “Ohhh… Of course you are! Of course we were!” How much pain and confusion over those decades could we have been spared if we’d be able to understand ourselves at thirteen instead of thirty? If you’ve ever googled a term and then started crying with the sudden realization of “Oh my god. It’s a thing. I’m not broken,” then you know what I mean.
I am so deeply grateful to all my queer ancestors and peers who have let this new generation be the queerest yet. We can’t even get accurate numbers on how many Kids These Days identify as queer because it’s such an ever-expanding, ever-changing nebula. The kids are indeed all right. They deserve all the safety we can drape around them like a security blanket (incidentally, “QuILTBAG” is a delightful anagram of “LGBTQIA” that I wish got more usage). They deserve to see themselves in all media, in all colors of the rainbow, from the very start.
They deserve queer Muppets.
As bell hooks said,
“queer not as being about who you’re having sex with (that can be a dimension of it); but queer as being about the self that is at odds with everything around it and has to invent, create and find a place to speak and to thrive and to live.”
And that’s about as good a description of what the Muppets are all about as any I’ve ever heard.
P.S. It was a very tough choice for me to not write about Fraggles for this article but believe you me, the headcanon is there and it is solid as the Rock.
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by Beth Cook