Gonzo and the Dress

Published: July 26, 2021
Categories: Commentary, Feature

Earlier this week, the new Muppet Babies series put Gonzo in a dress. Now, folks like you and me may not bat an eye at this – we may even celebrate his unexpected fashion choice. Besides, Gonzo can do whatever he wants. But some people are inevitably going to take offense at the idea of a fictional character wearing a type of garment that doesn’t jibe with their hetero-normative viewpoints, and honestly, that’s just weird. So let’s get ahead of this thing, shall we?

Let’s get this part out of the way: Gonzo should be able to wear whatever he wants, even if it doesn’t seem compatible with how some viewers see as his gender identity. The same goes for other children at the same stage as Baby Gonzo. They’re all trying to figure out who they are, and maybe they’re kids who wear dresses? It’s important for us to be okay with this and support them, rather than try to explain how a simple cut of fabric can hurt a passerby who might notice and unfairly judge them.

The recent Muppet Babies episode “Gonzo-rella” features the tiny Muppets preparing for one of their classic fantasy sequences, where the boys will be knights and the girls will be princesses. Gonzo notices a particularly shiny dress that he’d like to wear, but he’s told that he can’t be a princess because he’s a boy.

You’re all smart folks, you can fill in the blanks for what comes next. Gonzo gets to wear the dress, everyone accepts the new normal, and the episode ends with a lead-in to the next segment where Summer buys a car. (Nobody seems to have a problem with a penguin driving a car, but whatever – that’s for another article.)

And that’s how it should be – just another story about the Muppet Babies being Muppets and babies. But we know that some people aren’t going to be able to hold back their fury, and they’ll take to the internet to stir the shit. We all saw how people reacted when Billy Porter showed up in an exquisite dress on Sesame Street. (The good news is that we can easily ignore them. Just make sure you’re reading all your Muppet news from ToughPigs.com and not the larger Twitterverse, mmkay?)

Well, I’m here to tell you that Gonzo’s fashion choice isn’t just normal for real people in the real world, but it’s perfectly in character for Gonzo himself.

Firstly, this is far from the first time Gonzo has worn a dress. Gonzo has donned what might be referred to as women’s clothing on many occasions – in the name of art, in the name of fashion, or in the name of emulating Miss Piggy. He’s also dressed as Vanna White, Whistler’s Mother, and Cinderella’s Godmother. Not only is this literally nothing new or uncharacteristic about Gonzo, it’s a reference we’ve hardly batted an eye toward over the past four decades.

Second, this is far from the first time Baby Gonzo has worn a dress. The Muppet Wiki lists about a dozen examples of Baby Gonzo dressing in tutus, as the Tooth Fairy, as Carmen Miranda, and more. He did it so often, he could’ve ditched the red overalls for a pink dress and no one would’ve questioned the sudden costume update.

Third, Gonzo is a terrific character for audiences to look toward to see their own reflections. Gonzo can be anything and everything, so why not me??? Do you find trouble relating to some of your peers? Or to the protagonists of your favorite TV shows and movies? Or do you have aspects of your personality that don’t line up with what’s considered “normal” in society? Good news, you’ve always got Gonzo. This idea is lovingly reflected in Ren Goetz’s ToughPigs article “Gonzo the Great: Nonbinary Icon“, proving that Gonzo is an ideal stand-in for all of us.

Lastly, this doesn’t just fit Gonzo’s history – it also fits his personality. It’s a shame that Gonzo is first and foremost considered a “weirdo”. I hope that kids (and grown-ups) never look at Gonzo’s apparel choices and think that he’s only dressing that way because he’s the weird one. But once you look a bit deeper at who Gonzo really is, you know that he’s not weird, he’s different. He’s unique. And he’s absolutely, unequivocally himself.

Since Gonzo’s earliest appearances, he’s always marched to the beat of his own drummer (whilst, and at the same time, eating tires or dancing in tapioca or reciting Shakespeare). He never did those things because they were SO WEIRD, but because he looked deep inside himself and asked what sort of performance he’d like to present to the world, and it just so happens to rarely match with his audience’s expectations.

And yet, through all of his failed art spotlights and unique outfits, Gonzo persists. He’ll continue to create and entertain and present in the way that’s truest to him, even if it means befriending a potato or pretending to be a princess. And my hope is that we give the kids (and adults) in our lives the same benefit.

Many thanks to Scott Hanson and the Muppet Wiki for their research! Click here to wear whatever the heck you want to wear on the ToughPigs forum!

by Joe Hennes – Joe@ToughPigs.com

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Written by Joe Hennes

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