Kermit the Frog is 60 years old. He’s had a long and sordid career, escaping the educational mission of Sesame Street for the PG variety show spinoff The Muppet Show.
I’m watching with my son. We got the complete Muppet Show collection a few years ago. I turned it off almost immediately. Declan loved the scenes of bar fights, girls getting dragged around by the hair, and the punching, hitting and shooting. He wanted to try it out on his own.
He’s six now. He’s expressed interest in The Muppets. I pulled out the collection. He’s in love. There comes a time in every child’s life when he is ready for the Muppets. This is the stuff I grew up with and I want to share, but as a parent of this millennium, the violence horrifies me.
“Oh, hi, Miss Piggy. Have you met Lydia?” says Kermit the Frog introducing Miss Piggy to a guest Muppet.
“Have you met my left fist?” Smash! Declan laughs and laughs and laughs. He walks around mumbling “my left fist” followed by laughter for days.
In another scene, Fozzie the Bear shoots up an entire bar with a loaded cucumber, pretending to be John Wayne. Declan doesn’t know who John Wayne is, but he’s been doing the perfect voiceover, recording Photo Booth videos of himself as a Western hero he’ll probably never know.
These shows are thirty plus years old. It’s hard to believe the rogue puppets that escaped Sesame do some serious off-color jokes. The show’s brilliant and the writing’s very good. But it’s from a decade we’ve banished for being violent, bad, and “not safe for children.” Have we gone soft and lost our collective sense of humor, or did society try to ruin my generation? Thank God we survived–all the smoking, drinking, swearing–and puppets that smacked each other on a regular basis. We’re lucky we got out with any kindness at all.
If the Muppet Show was written today, it’d be more polite. Miss Piggy would be called out for the stalker she is–she’d be in court on domestic charges. You can’t hit, and “no” means “no.” Even if your guy’s a frog.
When I hear Declan laughing that gut busting laugh that stops a mom stops in her tracks, I smile. I’m sharing a part of myself with him–the things I loved when I was little. I let go.
I survived this stuff. All the cartoons ended with someone’s face getting splatted in a frying pan. Tom & Jerry tried to kill each other, Yosemite Sam swore, and Wile E. Coyote blew himself up three times each half hour.
And I’m okay.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t make progress as a society. Here’s where I should say “the research says,” but I’m only on my first cup of coffee. Even without the research, I know how I feel when I watch shows with violence and negativity–even TV news. My husband enjoys military and action movies. When I watch them, I feel stressed and bad. I feel the same way about my old running playlists filled with gangsta rap. It’s got a good beat, but after five or six miles of “%$^#%^$ you $%^%$&ing ^%%&” my spirits deflate.
Garbage in, garbage out is a real thing. I feel happy when I watch happy things, listen to happy music, and interact with happy, visionary people. Are the Muppets bad?
I sit and watch Muppets for an entire evening. We have a blast. Popcorn and John Wayne impersonations fly around the room. We laugh and laugh and laugh.
“Mom, can we see the Muppet Movie?”
“Sure, if you’re good and listen at school.” Perfect opportunity for a bribe. Secretly, though, I’m rooting for him to be good. I want to see my friends the Muppets once more. I want to see how they’ve changed, grown, evolved. Will Miss Piggy and Kermit be in love and nice to each other? Will cigars blow up in Waldorf and Statler’s face? Will Fozzie the Bear tell bad jokes? Or will everyone be nice? And if they are, will their magic be gone?
Growing up is all about the magic. Capturing it, and making sure it stays before adulthood tries to steal it away.
I watch him smile. I see another Muppet hit someone in the face. We both laugh together. And I think we will both be okay.