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In defense of a feminist Miss Piggy and a Kermit with no pants

 In defense of a feminist Miss Piggy and a Kermit with no pants
ABC's new TV show "The Muppets" has billed itself as being written for adults. But a parenting group is calling for a ban against the network if it doesn't cancel the series. (Bob D'Amico / AP)

I have no particular love for "The Muppets."

They weren't a staple of my childhood, so I'm not attached to them out of nostalgia. And my kids never asked to see the movies (2011's "The Muppets" and 2014's "Muppets Most Wanted"), so I haven't spent much time in their company as an adult either.

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Still, I feel compelled to defend them in the face of One Million Moms threatening to boycott ABC if the network doesn't drop the new show from its fall lineup.

"The mature version of 'The Muppets' will cover a range of topics from sex to drugs," the group writes on its website. "Miss Piggy came out as a pro-choice feminist during an MSNBC interview. The puppet characters loved by kids in the 1970s and 1980s and beyond are now weighing in on interspecies relationships and promiscuity."

One Million Moms (1MM for short) is a nonprofit that calls itself "the most powerful tool you have to stand against the immorality, violence, vulgarity and profanity the entertainment media is throwing at your children."

Their leadership is urging parents to take action by calling or emailing ABC.

"I do not appreciate your network attempting to trick my family into watching a vile show," reads a pre-written email. "If your producers air this program as originally planned, my family will have no choice but to no longer watch the ABC Network. ... I will not allow ABC in my home unless you produce and air family-friendly programming."

Couple of things.

One: The Moms launched this effort before the show aired on Tuesday, basing their outrage on the promos alone, which, they point out, include a commercial of Kermit saying, "It's sort of an adult Muppet show," and an ad that reads, "Finally, a network TV show with full frontal nudity" next to a picture of the pants-less frog.

That doesn't sound like tricking families. That sounds like letting them know up front that it's, well, sort of an adult Muppet show.

Two: Family-friendly is awfully subjective. A pro-choice feminist is not, to my mind, vile. Nor are stuffed animals who don't wear pants. My son's Willie the Wildcat toy joins us for many a bedtime story and my son has never tried to leave the house without pants on.

But I understand and respect that each family gets to shape and live out its own value system, and mine doesn't need to match my neighbors' or my colleagues' or, obviously, the One Million Moms'.

Which brings me to the real problem with this threat.

By all means, parents should shield kids from programming that we deem unfit. We should pay attention to commercials and reviews and decide what shows and movies are worthy of our kids' time and brain space.

But we have to keep in mind that we are not the cultural gatekeepers to the masses. Plenty of people — parents and non-parents alike — will enjoy the new, slightly edgier "Muppets" and the world will continue to spin on its axis.

Our children, meanwhile, are watching us — even more closely than whatever they're watching on TV.

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They're watching the way we welcome opposing viewpoints, or don't. They're watching whether we feel threatened by change or open to it. They're watching how we react to things that don't fit our values: Do we talk about why those things strike us as problematic and why we'll be avoiding them? Or do we label them vile and try to shut them down?

Those are important distinctions, especially when we've got college kids refusing to read a novel by a MacArthur "Genius" Award winner because it doesn't line up with their beliefs.

In the end, the boycott threat will probably do little more than send some free publicity to "The Muppets." If the show finds viewers, it stays. If it doesn't, it goes.

Meanwhile, I'm definitely tuning in next week to hear what a porcine pro-choice feminist has to say about promiscuity.

(Say that 10 times fast.)

Twitter @heidistevens13

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