Our Claire reconsiders The Muppets…
When I read in The Guardian the other day that Disney had added disclaimers to episodes of The Muppet Show, warning of “negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures”, I was shocked. This was not how I remembered things.
To me, The Muppet Show was innocent, knockabout, fun and a weekly delight when I was a kid. In fact, I still consider the evening I was sent to bed early without being allowed to watch the show as one of the worst punishments I ever got. This love of Kermit, Miss Piggy and the rest of the gang extends into adulthood. I have an album of their music and all the DVDs I’ve been able to get my hands on. The Muppets movie, released in the UK in 2012, was also the last film I got to see in the cinema with my husband before he died in 2013. My fandom even extends to the fact that I dislike seeing behind the scenes pictures of the show as I feel it spoils the magic and I would consider being called a Muppet a compliment rather than an insult.
So to discover that The Muppet Show now contained a contents warning seemed to go against everything I believed in. In fact, it seemed to go against what I believed The Muppets believed in! After all, Kermit sang the songs It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green and Rainbow Connection – songs seen to promote peace, love and harmony. These sentiments are backed up in the films and Gonzo – a creature of unknown origin – is loved because of who they are regardless of what species they might be. So how could any of this be considered offensive? I had to investigate.
Watching the Marty Feldman episode – one of the episodes with a content warning – I soon found out what was offensive. The show tackles the Arabian Nights stories, with all the cast in cultural dress. It is typically knockabout but this now comes across as mocking the culture and one of the Muppets even does a parody of an Arabian accent. I would hate to be an Arabian kid seeing their culture mocked in such a way. How would they feel watching that? I don’t think it would make them the fan I’ve become of the show.
As an adult, I now see that the humour in the show wasn’t innocent – I was. I was a kid who didn’t know any better. The makers of the program did (as I have explained above) but it wasn’t carried through as it should’ve been. So I feel it is entirely appropriate that amends are now sought. I do not want to live in a world that excuses this kind of thing. I want to live in a world of tolerance, inclusion and love that The Muppets promoted in the overwhelming majority of what they did – something I’ve also found whenever I’ve visited WHISC.
At WHISC all women are welcomed warmly. I’ve seen the staff and volunteers treat everyone equally, whoever they might be. I’ve seen their efforts to bridge the gap between cultures, such as phoning for an interpreter so that they could communicate. None of this is expressed as going to any great lengths or making a special effort. It just happens without question. That is the kind of world I want to live in. Not one that feels entitled to trample over others or their feelings. And, if we follow WHISC’s example, I believe that world is within reach.
Whether you’re going through good times or bad ones, WHISC are waiting to hear about it. So do give their Listening Ear service a call on 0151 707 1826 or, alternatively, leave a message on their Facebook page with your phone number and they will ring you back. There’s also many online activities you can take part in with WHISC from the comfort of your own home. So do have a look at the What’s On page of this website.