The Muppets has brought everyone’s favorite felt-based entertaining puppets back to TV. But not everyone’s happy about it.
The Muppets follows the familiar crew of characters in a “behind the scenes” mockumentary of the making of Miss Piggy’s late night talk show. Sort of the Muppet version of The Larry Sanders Show. It’s packed with sly jokes that work on multiple levels. Things that will sail over the heads of the kids in the audience while giving the grown-ups a chuckle. This is what the Muppets have always done. Anyone who ever watched The Muppet Show or saw any of their movies knows this.
So it’s bizarre, if not entirely unsurprising, that the oft-misguided One Million Moms has clutched its collective pearls over The Muppets. They insist that the material is too risqué. That children will be scandalized by the covert jokes about adult topics that they won’t understand anyway.
The One Million Moms miss a couple of salient points.
Most importantly, this isn’t new. If you’ve watched any Muppet project in the past, this is what they’ve always done. There have always been well-disguised sex jokes. Perhaps The Muppets hasn’t encoded them to quite the degree that past projects did, but they’ve always been there. The Electric Mayhem has always been a fairly overt spoof of rock and roll drug culture. Muppet takes on scandals and issues of the day were common in The Muppet Show.
A lot of that stuff eluded the youngest viewers in the audience. They saw the Muppets dressed up in funny costumes and laughed. They enjoyed the singing, the broad physical comedy and the absurdity. When in doubt, cut to a guy clutching a rubber chicken. The adults in the audience had no need to explain what “choking the chicken” might mean in another context. Everyone left happy.
This insistence that the Muppets has always been some kind of squeaky clean, impossibly straight-arrow family entertainment is misplaced and inconsistent with the franchise’s history. The Muppets are sarcastic, mischievous and anarchic. There’s always more going on in a given scene than what you get at face value. They get away with a lot by being clever and subtle. And by being felt puppets.
But for the sake of argument, say that the One Million Moms are right. Say that The Muppets is filthy trash that tramples on innocent childhood memories of faux-Vaudeville hijinks. How does that justify a crusade against the show?
If you find The Muppets or any other show unsuitable for viewing by your children, then don’t let them watch it. Turn the channel to something you find more appropriate. Yes, kids might whine and complain that they don’t get to watch it. Their friends are watching it. It’s called “parenting.” No one ever said it would be easy or convenient.
The fact that you find something unsuitable for your children doesn’t mean that no one should be able to watch it. Some people still cling to the notion of the 8 p.m. time slot as the “family hour.” That anything airing in that period should be appropriate for a general audience. That hasn’t been the case in a long time. For years, the broadcast networks did try to schedule “all ages” series to lead off each night. But that practice has long since fallen by the wayside.
That fact is that The Muppets is aimed at adults with fond memories of the earlier series and movies. Across the first two episodes, it’s evident that the writers take some care in crafting their jokes. Most of the more mature connotations will be lost on any kids tuning in. But the kids aren’t the target. The adults who get the innuendo are. An 8 p.m. timeslot doesn’t change that.
So if The Muppets offends you, turn it off. But don’t expect those who want to watch it to do the same. And stop trying to prevent others from having that choice because something doesn’t meet your narrow conception of what is and is not “acceptable.”
Originally published at thunderalleybcpcom.ipage.com on September 30, 2015.