One of the best things about having kids is getting to introduce them to the things you loved when you were young. One of the worst comes when they don’t see those things quite the way you always did.
I was really excited this morning when my 4-year-old son, Bennett, raced up to me to say he’d just seen the greatest YouTube video ever — and it starred the Muppets! I love the Muppets! I’ve even written about them before on this blog! Bennett started describing it to me in his adorably excitable way.
“Daddy, you won’t believe what they were sitting on… BRANCHES! Isn’t that CRAAAAZY? And there were BIRDS! They were going, ‘Tweet, tweet!'”
“Wait a second, dude,” I said, in my older, excitable way. “Was this song called ‘Rockin’ Robin’?”
“I REMEMBER THAT!!!”
“LET’S WATCH IT RIGHT NOW!!!”
I grabbed Bennett’s twin sister, Sutton, and the three of us ran to the iPad. As the video played, Bennett and I giggled and sang along. Sutton just watched.
“Daddy,” she said, about halfway through, “there aren’t a lot of girl Muppets.”
Cue the record scratch here.
I’m not going to pretend that this was news to me. Sure, everyone knows Miss Piggy, and any true Muppet fan is aware of Janice, who in fact, sings lead vocals on “Rockin’ Robin.” Other than her, though, it was a total sausage factory on those branches, the same way it is in the Muppet Theater, the Muppet movies, the Muppet TV specials and everything else Muppet-related.
Think about it. After Miss Piggy and Janice, what other female Muppets are there? Camilla the chicken?
I don’t want to play up this moment too much. It’s not like my daughter burst into tears or stormed away declaring she didn’t like the Muppets anymore. She was just making an observation. And that is exactly why I’m so upset.
At 4 years old, my daughter has already figured out that sometimes, there just aren’t a lot of girls. Some people create entire realms of characters where women are an afterthought or a token, where one or two females can represent every feminine characteristic they intend to portray. The boys come in endless varieties, each with their own lovable quirks. There’s Kermit, the avuncular optimist, Fozzie, the goofy vaudevillian, Swedish Chef, the, well, Swedish Chef… and then there’s Miss Piggy, the girl.
What really hurts about this is how otherwise inclusive the Muppets are. Muppets come in all shapes and species, all colors of the rainbow, some have different accents or dress in a unique way. The only blind spot the Muppets seem to have is the one that covers, you know, roughly half of the entire world’s population — and 100% of my daughter.
I realize this isn’t a new thing. The Muppets have always been a boys’ club. What’s changed, of course, is that I have a daughter now, and I want her to feel as welcome and included in this fun little fantasy world as I do.
I could very easily steer her toward other pop culture choices. Believe me, she knows about princesses and Strawberry Shortcake, properties that were created specifically for her gender and where girl characters typically outnumber boys. But she wants to like the Muppets, and I want to share them with her without her feeling like she needs to sit on the sidelines while her brother and I geek out over their videos.
The Children’s Television Workshop has done a good job of integrating new female characters, like Abby Cadabby, Zoe and Rosita. There’s no reason the Muppets (who are owned by Disney and operate as a separate entity) can’t do the same.
Come on, Disney. This is on you. I know you know how to market things to little girls, so let’s get on this, OK?
I am not wagging a finger at you so much as I am waving dollar bills in your face. My son owns about half a dozen stuffed animals, including Kermit, Fozzie and Gonzo. My daughter owns about nine squijillion. Many of them are your characters. If you make some new girl Muppets, we will buy the toys. We will buy the original doll, we will buy the “young” version of the doll, we will buy the Classic Animator edition of the doll, the Barbie version of the doll, the pillow pet of the doll, the miniature figurine of the doll. The last time I counted, I believe Sutton had six Rapunzels, and she’s never even sat all the way through Tangled. Whatever you churn out and squeeze onto the shelves of the Disney Store, we will charge on our Disney credit card and take home with us. You will have us on the hook for years and years, for hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars.
What I am begging you for is the opportunity to make you considerably richer. If that’s not win-win, I don’t know what is.
Look, I realize my timing is terrible. The next Muppet movie, Muppets Most Wanted, comes out in March, and from what I’ve seen, it’s just as testosterone-heavy as all the other Muppet films. No new girl Muppets, although there is Tina Fey — who, by the way, I’m pretty sure will be with me on this.
Maybe you can squeeze in a few reshoots or CGI in Beaker’s mom or something. Bring back Skeeter if you want to. I’m not picky. At the very least, you’re probably in development on the next Muppet movie after this one. (I hope so. I hope there are a hundred more Muppet movies on the way, ones both my kids will want to see with me.)
If you’re still in need of ideas, here’s one for you. After we watched the video this morning, I told Sutton she should create her own girl Muppet. Then at preschool, that’s exactly what she did. When I picked her up at the end of the day, she couldn’t wait to show me her drawing. Her name is Rosada.
Rosada, according to Sutton, is nice, quiet and as smart as a bug. She likes Milano cookies, her shoes and her bag that her mother got her. She is not a ladybug.
A four-year-old came up with this. What have you got?