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Enough with the Kermit-Piggy-Denise drama: Why are we so eager to ruin the Muppets with this tabloid nonsense?

Killjoy alert: "The Muppet Show" is not a "docuseries," and these anthropomorphic "stars" aren't sentient beings


Mary Elizabeth Williams
September 2, 2015 11:42PM (UTC)

This was cute for about thirty seconds, several weeks ago. But if you are really determined to run this thing into the ground, then godspeed, Muppets, because I am breaking up with you.

Most of us who grew up on Jim Henson's beloved characters are familiar with the on-again, off-again romance between Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy. He's always been the genial but commit-phobic boyfriend, while she's played the eager-to-point-of-violence lady in love. Yet somehow, throughout their years together and their ongoing working relationship, they've managed to remain one of the great show business couples. And then, all of that came to a heartbreaking end this past summer, when they dropped the bombshell -- just in time to launch their new ABC "docuseries" -- that they had ended it.

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As People reported at the time, "The couple – together for about 40 years after being introduced by mutual friend Jim Henson – announced the split at ABC's summer press tour in Beverly Hills on Tuesday, releasing a joint statement on Twitter." At the press conference, the two appeared eager to move on, with Miss Piggy stating, "I have no problem working with my ex, okay? It's fine. It's totally healed."

I almost feel funny saying this, given a reality television landscape full of "housewives" and Kardashians, but… you know the Muppets aren't real, right? Like, not just not real like wrestling's not real, but not real like have no internal organs not real.

At first, it seemed the entirely straight-faced announcement of the Piggy-Kermit split was a one-off joke to drum up publicity for the new series, a modern riff on their age-old dynamic. But no, apparently we're going to wring this thing dry until all our childhood love for these characters is replaced with the icy contempt normally reserved for hapless dating show contestants.

This week, People released another shocker about the former couple, with a photo of them in an alleged heated argument — and um, their puppeteers in the corner of the picture, manipulating them. This followed on the heels of "Hunger Games" actor Liam Hemsworth posting a photo on Instagram showing him gazing lovingly at Miss Piggy. This week People also — most damningly —  published photos of Kermit with his reported new lady friend, an ABC marketing executive named Denise. "A source" tells People Kermit is getting serious about the relationship.What. A. Tramp.

Denise, like Miss Piggy, identifies as swine. Also, like Piggy, she's not a person. Yet this entire fauxmance has been dutifully picked up and played straight, with international headlines declaring "There's no going back! Kermit has moved on with a new girlfriend after 40 year romance with Miss Piggy" and confirmation that the couple have been "canoodling for months." The shocked #TeamPiggy denizens of social media, meanwhile, have been quick to condemn the sultry Denise as a home wrecking skank. As Ally Hord NAILED IT Tuesday, "You did it, Internet. You managed to slut-shame a female even though she's a pig puppet."

I know I'm also the killjoy who cringes at every wink-wink grownup joke thrown in to entertain the parents and befuddle the kids in children's movies, but, c'mon, must we? Must we transform the old innocent song and dance variety show into some kiddie version of a Bravo series? Because ew.

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Sure, the temperamental Miss Piggy is a natural for the kind of theatrics that have become a staple of TV since the original "Muppet Show" went off the air more than 30 years ago. But parodying reality TV might have been only mildly entertaining a decade ago. Now, the tabloid nature of this early Muppet marketing looks just weird and dumb. Is Animal going to go to rehab, too? Are Statler and Waldorf Internet commenters now?

If you're going to jab at television tropes, can you jab at them in a way that doesn't turn these sweet, funny characters just another hate-watch? And can the rest of us stop pretending that we live in a world with talking pigs and frogs? Because this game has gone on long enough, and it's making us all look like dummies.

'The Muppets': The Muppets - First Look


Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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