The Muppets Feminist Disney Mini-Review
Overall Score: 2.7 out of 4 (see details at bottom)
This will be a review with a bit less depth (“mini”?) because I normally re-wind a lot when I’m writing but since I just saw this in a theatre a week ago I can only work off of that (so apologies if I paraphrase instead of correctly quoting, etc).
I liked that the first time we see Mary in the movie, she’s teaching the kids how to put a car together! She rolls out from under it with a wrench or something in hand in order to say hi to her boyfriend and all the kids Boo when she tells them it’s time for Spring Break or whatever. I just thought that was a cool moment because it’s exactly what you don’t expect when you find out she’s a sweet, pretty school teacher (the preferred job of many of women in romantic movies? lol…).
Although I’m always wary of missing a line somewhere, I’m pretty sure this movie doesn’t pass the Bechdel test. And even though there are some female muppets (Janice), the vast majority of them are male and so Miss Piggy often ends up being the token female among the muppets, which I can only imagine would have been more pronounced/noticeable if it wasn’t for Mary’s presence in the movie.
And more from here:
“Unfortunately, the movie seemed to struggle a bit with how much independence to give its women characters. While Miss Piggy continues to use both karate chops and more traditionally feminine wiles to get her way, and Mary repairs cars and electrical circuits without breaking a sweat, the two have the same ultimate goal: marriage.”
“One of my biggest issues with these two having the same motivation is that they both only have One motivation and goal. All the other (male) characters have more than one goal and motivation throughout the movie. Walter wants to save the theater, reunite the Muppets, and find his place. Gary wants to be with Mary, and he wants his brother to be happy but struggles with maybe having to let go of him. Kermit wants to save the theater, be with the family that is the Muppets and re-kindle his relationship with Miss Piggy. Even Animal has two goals: wanting to save the theater AND to control his wild side. -Bitch Flicks
On the other hand, both Miss Piggy and Mary are fairly assertive in their desires and are willing to leave, rather than linger, if the situation with their boyfriends is ultimately not in line with their relationship expectations. A positive take on Kermit’s character:
“Jim Henson created Kermit in the Free To Be You and Me-fueled culture of the ‘70s, when people were itching for different role models for kids—ones that didn’t play into the tired gender stereotypes of previous decades. As a mother of a son? I totally appreciate that. Kermit is a relatable character that my son can look up to.” -Bitch Magazine
Someone noted when I previously posted about seeing The Muppets is that “the Moopets” (fake puppets their businessman enemy wants to replace them with) seemed to exhibit some problematic stereotypes.
The fake Piggy seemed to illustrate either some trans stereotyping or queer stereotyping /villianizing (from the Bechdel test on the Muppets: “It was my impression that “Miss Poogy” is a male character (boar?) in drag.”); when I saw it I thought she was just supposed to look like a stereotypical “hardened older woman” (which is some stereotypes in itself) but most on other sites say it was supposed to be a stereotype of a drag queen or a trans* woman (because it is a stereotype and not a reflection of reality, the lines in how these different identities are presented/which ones is being alluded to, are sometimes blurred). And the fake Rowlf just seemed like he was supposed to be… black?? Neither of these things are, obviously, bad, but it’s bad when the antagonists in this film are- as often happens in movies- coded as being things society typically sees as less ideal. It reinforces the subconscious notions people have that such people are “seedy” etc. when a movie chooses to portray them as criminalish, mean “low lives” intent on ruining the purity of the Muppet brand or w/e. It can also be rather otherizing; I would have never assumed Rowlf the dog was “white,” and yet the fact that his evil version is “black” seems to suggest that most of the characters are de-facto white unless otherwise noted.
The evil businessman’s later statement/mini-speech about the Moopets indicated that they were “edgy” and “what the world is looking for now” while the Muppets were too innocent and wholesome. “Edgy” and “urban” in our culture are basically code words in advertising for “I’m going to use black people in this commercial to appeal to an urban market,” and the fact that many of the Moopets are dressed like rap icons doesn’t seem to do anything except reinforce the idea that things like rap are being “forced on us” by bad businessman who don’t understand our real desires for… [white] wholesomeness?
That whole section is not completely clear to me so it might be over-critiquing it but it did feel like a very… particular set of characteristics were given to the Moopets.
Some of the humor in this movie seemed to center in a lot more 90s/less PC understanding of the world. Another section that grated a little was the “hobo Joe” or whatever he was named who randomly showed up in the audience when they’re having their big debue. No- what actually happens is, hee shows up and establishes trash cans and a nice little hobo fire. And him being a hobo there is just supposed to be “really funny” because hobos and homeless people are just haha weird! They also make a point in the movie of joking about how he doesn’t count- Kermit is bemoaning the lack of audience and Hobo Joe exclaims, “Hey! I’m right here!” So, while it’s understandable Kermit wanted more than 3 people in the audience, having “hobo Joe” respond with this does reference the reality that homeless people are often assumed to “not really count” as people that matter. And then at the end of the movie they have Jack Black tied up and carry him off- against his will- saying “The Hobo King!” Shady jokes…
But what really struck me about this scene is what happened after we left the movie theater. We actually passed a homeless person on the street, and right as we were passing him, one of the girls I had seen the movie with exclaimed loudly, “Hey look! It’s hobo Joe!” Since we were speaking in English I just hope he only knew German, but that moment really hit home to me that even a so-called “harmless” joke can really be hurtful. And what always strikes me and makes me really uncomfortable about jokes about homeless people is knowing that many of them suffer from mental illnesses that have caused them to be homeless. And obviously there are a number of other factors that can result in someone ending up living on the street- many of us are closer to this possibility than we realize. It can often take just one over-priced hospital visit or one period of unemployment to edge one into street life.
So making fun of them for “being homeless” just seems extra wrong considering how often it’s really just a symptom of a larger problem. And even beyond that, I think jokes like that just tend to be dehumanizing and paint homeless life as some sort of club rather than an unfortunate, unplanned economic reality that has just happened to happen with other people. “Hobo life” isn’t really magical, it shouldn’t be the butt of our jokes, especially when homelessness is already poorly understood in the US.
Overall, it was a decent movie and even though they are worth noting especially due to their occurrence frequency in many movies, the problematic parts were limited in how much time they were given on screen and they were not the main points or used as the focus of the film.
Promotion/Equal Voice given to women: **~
Representation of Women present (are they more than typecasts of female stereotypes etc): ***
LGBTQ representation: *~
Gender Binary adherence: **~
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