2021 was meant to be the year everyone moved on from COVID and things looked great again. It would be The Year Of Fun! Or so we thought. Many places continued lengthy lockdowns (myself included), both sides of the political parties kept yelling at each other, and as well as COVID conspiracy therorists, we now had anti-vaxxers to deal with. It was chaos no matter where you went.
It’s a good thing for us though that we have The Muppets and Sesame Street, because they’re consistently beloved and no-one has any negative opinions on them and of course I’m being sarcastic. 2021 has had 5 prominent ‘scandals’* revolving around The Muppets, 2 in the last 2 weeks for crying out loud. And it’s pretty much all garbage. So I thought it might be fun today to rank these ‘scandals’ in order of Pretty Ridiculous to Ridiculously Ridiculous.
*(Please note that I don’t think any of these are legitimately scandalous)
Frank Oz Says Disney Doesn’t Want Him
Earlier this year Frank Oz, who was the orig– why am I telling you, you know who Frank Oz is, anyway he said in an interview that Disney and Sesame Street weren’t interested in working with him. This became a news story online for half a day, and garnered the usual ‘DiSnEy SuCkS’ comments, including having ‘muppetstwt’ on Twitter almost declare war on Disney (also I don’t understand muppetstwt but I’m 32 so maybe I don’t need to).
I sincerely believe this was a case of the journalist making a mountain out of a mole hill, and choosing words to make sure they had the most ‘clickbaity’ headline possible. My assumption was that it was said casually and almost thrown off, but in print sounded much more aggressive. I also know The Muppets Studio and Frank are on speaking terms, and while that may not mean they’re offering him jobs left and right, I also don’t think it means they’re actively excluding him, either.
Sesame Street Gets Multi-Cultural
Sesame Street has always strived to show the diversity that exists in any community. The show prominently featured African-Americans and Latinas at a time when it was unusual to see them on television. For over 20 years Alan, an Asian-American man, has been the guy behind the counter at Hooper’s Store. In fact, I’m not sure in the current series that there are any regular white cast members, and that’s perfectly fine! We’ve had our day in the sun! In a move to include even more diversity, Sesame Workshop has introduced a slew of new Muppet characters to the series such as Gabrielle, Tamir, Wesley and Elijah, who are all African-American. Great, right? And just the other day, Sesame announced the addition of Ji-Young, an Asian-American Muppet.
Where this ‘scandal’ becomes ridiculous is that a certain faction (cough Republicans cough) have got their undies in a twist that Sesame Street’s characters have always been made strange colors to represent anyone! Donald Trump Jnr tweeted “Muppets have races now? So based on the orange I’m guessing Ernie is a Trump and must be cancelled immediately!!!”. This is hilarious for multiple reasons. The first is that this idiot just roasted his own father for his insane orange tan – a rare self burn. The second is – imagine getting upset at diversity and inclusion! I think it’s pretty safe to say that most people, myself included, naturally defaulted Ernie and Bert to white people, maybe because I know it’s Caucasian people underneath. And that’s my own issue, and I’ll work on that. But I’m certainly happy that young people of color are going to start seeing themselves represented on their favorite show.
Gonzo Wears A Dress
Earlier this year, the stellar Muppet Babies put out an episode entitled Gonzo-rella, in which Baby Gonzo wants to go to the ball in an elegant dress. For many of us, this was barely a news story – Gonzo has always been an icon of individuality, and I’m surprised he hasn’t been wearing dresses on and off for years. Now, this doesn’t mean Gonzo was coming out as trans, but it doesn’t mean he conforms to normal gender stereotypes either. What it represented was that some people, including children, have different feelings and want to wear what makes them feel good about themselves.
Human garbage fountain Candace Owens was at the forefront of the backlash, and purposely misinterpreted the episode as The Muppets reintroducing Gonzo as trans, and that it would only confuse children and lead to more questions than answers. Of course the vast majority of parents would tell you that their child watched it and laughed at Gonzo’s nose or something, and no-one cared that Gonzo wanted to wear a dress, especially because he looked elegant as hell. Seriously, if I could pull off a dress like Gonzo or Billy Porter, I’d be wearing one constantly. And if that episode meant a young boy put on his sisters fairy dress and thought he looked cool – good on him! Is he oppressing your freedoms, Candace? No. You’re oppressing his. Let’s not push our expectations on anyone, especially children. Sometimes I put nail polish on. Just because I think it looks awesome.
Big Birds Gets Vaccinated
Remember COVID-19? That worldwide pandemic that killed millions of people and essentially put the world on PAUSE for 18 months? Good news, there’s a vaccine available! And I encourage you to get it, if it’s medically safe for you to do so! The vaccine roll-out has been different everywhere in the world, my country’s (Australia) has been particularly lackluster, but now the vaccine has been approved by the FDA for use on children as young as 5, meaning they won’t suffer and everything will go back to normal! HOORAY!
The folks at Sesame Street did another Town Hall with CNN to discuss the fears some kids might have about getting the jab, and then they all took to Twitter to celebrate the news! Big Bird tweeted (lol) “I got the COVID-19 vaccine today! My wing is feeling a little sore, but it’ll give my body an extra protective boost that keeps me and others healthy. Ms. @EricaRHill even said I’ve been getting vaccines since I was a little bird. I had no idea!”, and so of course Ted Cruz got involved. He accused Big Bird of propaganda, and continued his long run of ‘anti-COVID’ scare tactics, even though he himself has admitted to being vaccinated! Ted doesn’t want your kids to be healthy, Ted wants to run off to Cancun during a hurricane and grow a beard that doesn’t look very good.
The Muppets Get Cancelled For Racism
I love The Muppet Show. I really love The Muppet Show. Hugga Wugga is a bop, and Bear On Patrol is my jam. And I was so excited when the show FINALLY dropped on Disney+, including Seasons 4 and 5, which have never been officially released. But the show came with a warning, something that Disney has had to put on many of it’s older shows, and that was about the fact that the show had some culturally insensative moments. In the James Coburn episode, he sings in a Japanese dojo as stereotypical Geisha Muppets dance around him. He then does an extremely racist voice. It wasn’t funny then, and it’s not funny now. But Disney have kept it in for the sake of completion, and they want people to know that they’re aware of this being wrong. Hollywood has a very racist past, and The Muppets aren’t immune to that, no matter how much we love them. It’s great that they can acknowledge their past mistakes and learn from them, just like we’d expect when we make mistakes ourselves.
This disclaimer, which plays before 19 of the 118 episodes on the streaming service, was obviously reported on, and a lot of people who hadn’t watched the show before or at least studied it as much as we have were understandably surprised that The Muppets had ever had racist moments. That said, no-one ever said ‘Let’s cancel The Muppets’, because people are reasonable and understand context and learning from the past. As the disclaimer says; Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together. And that’s what it did.
Mostly. Until Fox News got involved, and reported that this disclaimer was the Left’s attempt to cancel The Muppets, even though no one was asking for that. For days they all shouted at each other without talking about the fact that a monkey with big teeth and a rice farming hat saying ‘Ching Chong’ was actually genuinely pretty offensive. This is what Fox News does – it riles up its fan base with baseless arguments and then echoes them for 24 hours until there’s something new to be offended by.
Click here to wear nail polish on the ToughPigs forum!
by Jarrod Fairclough