Look, we all love Muppets, and there are an abundance of them. So it’s easy to have an overlooked favorite – a character you wish got a bit more love from the fan community; who you cross your fingers will get a bigger role in whatever the next Muppet movie or television show may be.

With it being Women’s History Week and all, we here at ToughPigs thought we’d dedicate a piece to some fan favorite characters, who are both underrated and – you guessed it! – female. Whether they’re made of felt, fur, or flesh, here are some characters from Muppet, Sesame, and Fraggle productions worth remembering!

Lara Frazier’s Pick: Yolanda the Rat

“Yolanda the Rat has been my favorite female character, after Piggy and Janice, of course, out of the “main cast” of Muppets. Her appearance in Muppets Take Manhattan with her waitress uniform and cute blonde hair sealed a place in my heart. With the new series and bringing her back not only as a regular but Kermit’s assistant/secretary… I. Was. Ecstatic. I loved everything they did with her, finally expanding her out with a fun and flawed personality and a role that was more than (but still) Rizzo’s on/off girlfriend. I can only hope in the future more minor/background characters already in the Muppet family get a similar treatment. Especially the few females we have.”

Matthew Soberman’s Pick: Jojo

“I think one of the most underrated female Muppets…nay, one of the most underrated Muppets, period, is Jojo from The Jim Henson Hour episode “Secrets of the Muppets.” As Jim Henson takes her through the elaborate process of how Muppet and Creature Shop productions are made, she serves as the blank slate for the audience, asking questions you or I or Mr. Harry Stapleton may have. But what makes Jojo special is her deadpan sense of humor. If all she did was ask questions, she’d get pretty stale pretty fast, but Camille Bonora’s performance brings Jojo from a supporting player to a star in her own right. She gets snarky when she’s being used as a demonstration, allowing the Muppet sense of humor to permeate the special, which I think helps with its charm. When you’re talking about radio-controlled animatronics, computer-generated motion capture, and Muppets on bicycles, it may not seem like Jojo is a very important part of the episode, but as we learn, it’s the less-recognized elements that separate a good production from a Henson production, and Jojo is a key example of that.”

Max Stein’s Pick: Storyteller Fraggle

“I have to give a shout out to Storyteller Fraggle. Originated by Richard Hunt, who then turned over the role to his mentoree Terry Angus, Storyteller Fraggle holds the history of the Rock and gets our Fraggle friends out of many a jam. Plus she has a crush on Travelling Matt — what’s not to love?”

Evan G’s (First) Pick: Mean Mama

“Ask anyone who knows anything: the best Muppets are those giant, shaggy, formless monsters that always torment guest-stars and appear in the background of group scenes. You know the ones! Gorgon Heap! The Beautiful Day Monster! Gene the Behemoth! Anyway, somehow, despite there being so many shaggy monsters, there’s really only one female. Mean Mama is a huge, bulldog-esque abomination with a giant, gaping mouth and a penchant for wearing purple dresses. She’s done very little, but that’s not what being a good Muppet monster is about. Being a good Muppet monster is about looking fabulous while causing chaos, and Mean Mama’s got some incredible fangs and once throttled Don Knotts. What more can you ask for?”

Matt Wilkie’s Pick: Olivia

“Growing up, I loved all the humans on Sesame Street nearly as much as the Muppets and cartoons. Susan and Gordon were my teachers, Bob was my fun uncle, and Maria and Luis were like my best friend’s parents who treated me like their own kid. But Olivia was my favorite aunt – the one who never talked down to me and always made me feel special. And what a beautiful voice. When I was young, “One Little Star” was my lullaby, and I will never forget the sweet, soulful sound of Alaina Reed’s voice floating to my little ears. Truly underrated and deserving of much praise.”

Scott Hanson’s Pick: (Adult) Skeeter

“I’m not sure she fits the “underrated” category, but I’m going to have to go with adult Skeeter. Baby Skeeter as animated in the classic Muppet Babies is probably justly rated enough, but what little we’ve been given of her adult persona I think has shamefully been swept under the rug as a real lost opportunity for a terrific character. Of course, I refer to her run in the “Family Reunion” story arc of The Muppet Show comic book from (holy cow, I can’t believe it was this long ago now) eight years ago. Although the writing credit goes to yet another dude, she’s drawn by Amy Mebberson, and her character style sheet shows that she put a lot of thought into the character. In the story, Skeeter is presented as a well-rounded and capable individual who’s mostly free of the stereotypes we often see in such characters, but she’s not perfect either. She has her flaws, and she’s allowed to be petty as well as accomplished, saving her from becoming too much of what could have been either a Mary Sue or any other number of female character tropes.”

Robyn Learn’s Pick: Lydia the Tattooed Lady

“Lydia, oh Lydia, the Tattooed Lady: Originally, a never-seen-in-the-flesh Marx Brothers character, later to become a short-lived seen-in-the-porcine-flesh character on The Muppet Show. Brief as the appearance was, Lydia is still an important female worthy of admiration and appreciation. Radiating confidence, she proudly displays her intricate bodily artwork; a talented dancer, she enjoys every moment of the performance to her song. The unique diamond-studded horn-rimmed glasses, framed by a vivid and wild hairstyle, would still present a bold and dramatic appearance with more modest dress. Persistent and consistent, Lydia’s self-assurance shows off a style all her own. Combining education with passion, a body inked with American and world history leaves an unforgettable impression. Better than any plain novelty, Lydia’s fleeting moment in the spotlight showed poise with pride, improved by informing. It’s time to give Lydia her proper recognition.”

Larissa Grant’s Pick: Zoe

“I don’t understand why people are so dismissive of Zoe. She may have been introduced after Elmo, but she is not Elmo with a wig. She has a distinct face, voice, and her own personality. She can be stubborn, is very opinionated, and she can be vulnerable and confused. I like to see her paired with Telly. Telly worries in a way that is over the top, but Zoe worries in a way that reminds me of my own insecurities. I like to think Telly feels empathy for her because he is so gentle and reassuring with her, like a big brother. Also, while Elmo likes to remind people that he is only three and a half, Zoe actually feels like she is three and a half. Her little quirks and reactions have a tender authenticity that remind me of actual childhood innocence. And on top of all of that she works as a friend/sidekick to any Muppet be it Elmo, Abby, Rosita, Big Bird, or Telly. I love her.”

Carolyn Wiesner’s Pick: Apple

“Well, mine is probably pretty unpopular. I love Apple from The Christmas Toy. Horror movies (which I rarely watch) seem to have ruined dolls for people. I never thought she was “creepy,” just cute and relatable. I had to make way for a couple of younger siblings in my life and tried to handle not always being “the favorite” as well as she did. I also named a rabbit after her. Who really enjoyed eating apples.”

Ryan Roe’s Pick: Elizabeth

“When the topic of “underrated female characters” came up, one name immediately came to mind: Elizabeth from Sesame Street. In the late 90s and early 00s, she was a semi-regular, but now she’s been all but forgotten. Performed by Stephanie D’Abruzzo, Elizabeth was boisterous and energetic, marching to the beat of her own drummer. She was also really fond of her cat, whose name was Little Murray Sparkles. Is that great, or what? I’m not sure why Elizabeth was phased out — it probably had something to do with the show narrowing its focus on a smaller group of core characters. But I’d love to see Elizabeth make a comeback.”

Julia Gaskill’s (First) Pick: Lady Holiday

“There have been some great human co-stars in the Muppet movies over the years, but I’ve always felt like Lady Holiday never gets enough love. Woman built an entire fashion empire and knows how to run it. Yes, she’s a bit mean to her models, but when you get to the top you have to be blunt with the people working for you. She’s such a sassy and classy character, delivering one of the best lines in the whole film (“It’s plot exposition. It has to go somewhere.”). I’ve always been bummed that, after Piggy gets arrested for the necklace, Lady Holiday disappears from the rest of the film. I don’t know exactly how they could’ve managed it – maybe she seeks her revenge on Nicky ala Olenna Tyrell-style (I should’ve known I couldn’t make it through this without at least one Game of Thrones reference).”

Joe Hennes’s Pick: Police Officer

“Okay, so this is one of those “so obscure, how did you even remember this thing, you crazy nerd” moments. But I was rocking out to some classic Sesame Street tunes on my morning commute (as I’m sure we all do), and “Rebel L” appeared in my earbuds. It’s a fantastic song and a great soundalike spoof. But what stands out to me are the performances. It’s well known that Kevin Clash and Chris Cerf are able to sing like honest-to-Frog rockers, but the Grammy Award goes to the police officer, played by Ivy Austin. She gave the cop a voice that could bring down a house and wouldn’t sound out of place on a Rolling Stones record (ala Merry Clayton’s vocals in “Gimme Shelter”). To top it all off, no attention is spent noting that the police officer is female – it’s treated as completely natural – which could have been a point of interest in 1985, if only to make a “women can be anything!” point. Instead, we get a glimpse at gender equality in the least expected place. Whenever I hear this song, all I do is look forward to that police officer running in to belt a few lines, protecting us from rebel letters of the alphabet.”

Anthony Strand’s Pick: Ojo

Bear in the Big Blue House was an innovative series in a lot of ways. Unfortunately, it still fell into the common trope of having one “the girl” character in a mostly-male cast. Fortunately, “the girl” here is Ojo the Bear, played remarkably by Vickie Eibner. On paper, Ojo is a generic kid – spunky, inquisitive, excited about whatever happens to be going on. But Eibner invests her with a genuineness that few Muppets have ever had. The other kid characters are great, but they all seem like adult men pitching their voices up. Ojo seems like a real little girl. She can be thoughtful and helpful, but she can also be whiny and unreasonable. When she makes jokes, they seem like the jokes a little kid would come up with, and she sells them with childlike enthusiasm. The Muppets are designed to be larger-than-life, and Ojo isn’t that. She’s exactly as big as life, and it’s a joy to watch.”

 Ceris Anne’s Pick: Camilla the Chicken

“I do like Camilla. I think she does a lot. Without her, Gonzo has no foil, no foibles, and the fact that they’ve been together for so long without the drama of Piggy and Kermit really says a lot. She’s dedicated and he really loves her – and somehow he can tell her apart from all the other chickens. She also has a pretty great voice – she is always the lead singer of the chicken gals. I’d like to see her featured more. Their number in the fundraiser show was freakin hilarious and I never stop enjoying it. She’s really sincere. She’s also hilarious on her own, and in Muppet Family Christmas the jealousy is awesome.”

Evan G’s (Second) Pick: Prairie Dawn

“Okay, I know what you’re going to say: Prairie Dawn is not an obscure or underappreciated female character. Girl’s been on Sesame Street fairly regularly since 1971. But look, Prairie Dawn is absolutely underrated when you realize she is possibly the best Sesame Street character and yet people still forget about her or confuse her with Betty Lou. (For the record, Prairie Dawn is the one without pigtails and with an actual personality.) Prairie’s obsession with details and desperate desire to act like a grown-up makes her the ideal straight man (or, I guess, straight tiny pink child) for basically every other Muppet. Pair her with Cookie Monster, Grover, Herry Monster, Guy Smiley, or the Count. It doesn’t matter; it’s always comedy gold. And seriously, take a minute and look up clips where she’s interacting with these guys. Her hilarious type-A personality is a fabulous foil for the whole Sesame gang, making them seem even zanier while spotlighting her own greatness. I never understood why she wasn’t more of a core character, but I hope that her frequent appearances in Season 48 suggest a bright future for her.”

Julia Gaskill’s (Second) Pick: Emily Bear

“While she’s always such a great character, Ma really shines in Muppet Family Christmas. She goes from being Fozzie’s Ma to Emily Bear, so excited to put those surfing lessons to good use. And yet, when Fozzie and his crew role in out of the snow, she drops all of her fantasies of Malibu and the sun to host her son and friends for the holiday. Family ends up being more important to Emily than a planned vacation, truly a Muppet holiday lesson – though that doesn’t stop her from being a little sassy about it After all, she did take those three months of surfing lessons for zip!”

Click here to give more love to underrated fan favorites on the ToughPigs forum!

by the ToughPigs Staff

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