After too many years of silence on the matter, Disney has taken the courageous step of adding an advisory to “The Muppets” to warn viewers that we are about to see “harmful” and racist content. It’s about time we have a national conversation about these offensive muppets who, in their ignorance, have perpetuated harmful stereotypes through their puppet privilege.
“This program includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures. These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now,” reads the Disney Plus disclaimer — finally. “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. Disney is committed to creating stories with inspirational and aspirational themes that reflect the rich diversity of the human experience around the globe.”
“The Muppets” was anything but diverse, inclusive, and inspirational.
Take Kermit the Frog, for starters. The straight male protagonist’s prejudice shows every time he opens his little amphibian mouth. Kermit’s statement in his hit “The Rainbow Connections,” that rainbows are “only illusions,” is clearly a direct attack on the LGBT community. According to an unnamed source, Kermit’s lyrics are actually a frogwhistle to Pepe and his ilk to literally erase trans people.
And how about his constant gripes about his skin color? “It’s not that easy bein’ green”? Kermit’s attempts to brand himself as a frog of color is offensive to the BIPOC community.
Sam Eagle must be canceled as a white supremacist theocrat, who is reported to be a member of the Proud Boys. A quick internet search revealed that his Facebook cover photo says “Blue Lives Matter.” Animal evokes Trumpian rhetoric about MS-13 and is offensive toward illiterate musicians. And Statler and Waldorf are symbols of the white patriarchy, who are Me Too accusations just waiting to happen.
The Swedish Chef is undoubtedly racist and a glaring example of cultural appropriation because, as critics say, “He’s a stereotype, possibly offensive, certainly bumbling, and probably not even Swedish.”
His vocal cadence is clearly more Norwegian. “English-speakers, though, don’t use this lilt and don’t know the difference,” Jen Doll noted in her vital essay in The Atlantic. “Boorishly, we just lump everyone into the same ‘Scandinavian’ group, calling him Swedish because, well, that’s his name.”
Please understand: “Sweden is not just Ikea … and meatballs,” and “America needs to try harder.” Your ignorance is racism, and the chef “is not amusing.”
Miss Piggy is perhaps the only Muppet who doesn’t deserve to be canceled. It’s nice to see representation from the gender-fluid community. Frank Oz did such a beautiful job proving to young minds that men can indeed be women — or at least female porkers. The character seems to be a microaggression against orthodox Jews, but they don’t matter.
It’s nice to see Disney’s commitment to ally-ship because its previous silence was violence. But if we want to have the cultural reckoning we really need, we need to evaluate all the ways “The Muppets” have steeped our society in racism, sexism, and all the other -isms.
Any talk show hosts who have ever featured Kermit should probably take a hard look in the mirror and ask whether they can honestly consider themselves to be antiracists. Can we ever again listen to Harry Bellefonte or watch Steve Martin? How about Jimmy Kimmel or Ellen DeGeneres? As a white person, it’s not my place to say. But absolutely not.
If we don’t recognize the systemic racism and sexism of old films and shows such as “The Muppets,” we will never successfully transition to completely unproblematic entertainment, such as Disney’s new “Mulan,” which was created without any cultural appropriation and definitely no human rights abuses. Thank you to the CCP for helping make that dream a reality.