The Great Gatsby entered the public domain this year. That means anyone can adapt it or make creative works derivative of it, for free, without asking permission. For some reason, this development has inspired an idea that the Muppets should make a spoof or adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic book. I think it started with this piece from The Verge, and it has continued to spread around via social media and other websites.
Like millions of Americans, my primary association with The Great Gatsby is as a novel that I was required to read in high school. In case my sophomore English teacher Mrs. Baum is reading this, I want to say that I definitely read the whole thing, and paid attention to it, and didn’t use my friend Lee’s CliffsNotes at all, and reading it was an experience that enriches me to this day.
It is a classic, for sure. But as I read all the excited tweets and such, I can’t help but notice everyone is overlooking an important point: We definitely don’t need a Muppet Great Gatsby.
First of all, do you recall what The Great Gatsby is about? Spoiler alert, but the contents of the story include infidelity, debauchery, commentary on the malaise of the upper class, manslaughter, suicide, and murder. Does any of that seem like good fodder for a Muppet movie? Okay, maybe debauchery. But none of that other stuff!
I’m on the record as firmly believing that the Muppets shouldn’t shy away from occasional adult themes and innuendos. I don’t mind Muppets drinking alcohol or making PG-level naughty jokes, or Constantine cartoonishly blowing things up. But the themes of The Great Gatsby are too dark for those guys. They could maybe pull off a two-minute Gatsby spoof as a sketch or a YouTube video, but 90 minutes of it sounds unbearable. That is not a Fozzie joke. It really sounds unbearable.
In fact, I can think of only one reason to make a Muppet Great Gatsby, and that is the possibility of representing the setting of West Egg, Long Island as an actual giant egg laid by a giant Muppet chicken. And even that’s not very funny.
Even if the Muppets were to do another literary adaptation, there are other stories that would be a better fit and generally more fun to watch. How about The Muppets Go Around the World in 80 Days? How about The Muppet Swiss Family Robinson? Or even a film version of one of the entertaining Muppet comics from some years back — like Muppet Snow White or Muppet Peter Pan?
Sure, those would all work better than Gatsby. But I gotta say, even those movies wouldn’t excite me all that much. Muppet productions are few and far between these days, and I would love to see a new Muppet movie, and I would buy a ticket no matter what it was (even if it was Muppets Underwater!), but I don’t really want to see my favorite characters shoehorned into an existing story. I’m sure there are writers who could make it funny, but I would MUCH rather see Kermit the Frog as Kermit the Frog than as Nick Carraway.
If the audience of the ’20s really wants to see the Muppets going wild in the previous ’20s, the ideal compromise would be to do an original Muppet story set in that time period. I could probably go for that. Just imagine: the Electric Mayhem playing jazz… a human actor wearing a raccoon coat made of living Muppet raccoons… Beauregard driving a zeppelin. (They had zeppelins in the 1920s, right?) They could still spoof elements of The Great Gatsby where it made sense to, but they wouldn’t be stuck with retelling that story.
So yeah, they could do a Roaring 20s story. But I don’t think they should make it a priority. There are a lot of styles and genres and subgenres out there that could make for fun Muppet movies, and I think that’s the way to go. This is essentially what they did with the original “trilogy” of films — The Muppet Movie is a road movie, The Great Muppet Caper is a (foil-the-)heist movie, and The Muppets Take Manhattan is an old-fashioned “Let’s put on a show!” movie with an ’80s sensibility.
They could do a superhero movie. They could do a spy movie, in the vein of James Bond or Mission: Impossible. They could do a sci-fi movie — I know they already did Muppets From Space, but there’s a lot more you can do with the tropes of that genre. They could do an “inspirational” sports movie. Or they could do all of these!
Hmm. You know, when I started writing this, my point was “They shouldn’t make a Muppet Great Gatsby, but I think it’s mutated into “They should make Muppet movies.” I guess that accurately sums up my perspective.
All right. I’ve written 800 words, I used (mostly) complete sentences, and I backed up all my arguments with solid reasons. If Mrs. Baum is reading this, I hope she gives me at least a B+.
P.S. All of this discourse is silly anyway because our friends at The Muppet Mindset already suggested a Muppet Gatsby back in 2017.
Click here to fly a zeppelin on the Tough Pigs forum!
by Ryan Roe – Ryan@ToughPigs.com