Those Sexist Muppets

Peacebang, who is always insightful, mentioned her love for the muppets today but, also mentioned her distaste for an underlying (or perhaps not so underlying) sexism that runs through the recent movie.

I get that the movie is a bit retro in its attitudes, as it’s trying to keep things innocent and fresh. I appreciate that. What I did not appreciate, however, is that the screenplay makes a strong point that women are nothing without their men (or frog, as the case may be). Really, Muppets? In 2012? In 2012, the female character can’t go out for the day by herself or eat lunch by herself without falling into despair about it (and singing a big musical number about it)? Her big first number has to voice her ultimate (and apparently only) desire that her boyfriend marry her?

Male characters in this movie have dreams. They make things happen. They save the theatre, and find their talent. The ladies just go along for the ride and complain about not getting the guy. After the muppets save the theatre and treat us to a big, happy ensemble number, the movie comes to a satisfying conclusion. However, just to emphasize the point that all happiness comes from gettin’ yer man, the film adds a penultimate scene with Gary getting down on one knee and proposing to Mary. Blergh.

Part of me wants to say, relax they’re puppets. But they’re also role models, which is her point. I think the movie says a bit about helicopter parenting too. Walter needs to grow up and not depend on his big brother so much and Gary (Jason Segal) has know when to let Walter go and face the world on his own. Is he a “man or a muppet?”

But back to the sexism thing, Peacebang also notes that Miss Piggy has a bit of this subservient attitude towards her man, er frog as well. She’s the plus sized fashion editor for Vogue and….

Miss Piggy is living the dream! She’s not wasting her life away at a dive bar in Reno like Fozzy or wiling away her days in a gated mansion like her old paramour, Kermit. Piggy is important, successful and happy.

However, in what I’m sure most people thought was a throwaway moment, Kermit confesses to Miss Piggy that he misses her and needs her, and asks her to stay in Hollywood “for him.” Without hesitation, Piggy squeals, “Of course, Kermie.”

Are you kidding!? Piggy!! Who let that dialogue happen? She should have said, “Oh, Kermie, come with me to PARIS!” Then, voila, set-up for a Muppet movie in France!

Is the converse also true? Why does Kermit need to go and find Piggy in the first place? He’s single handedly gotten all the Muppets together to save the day. Would Piggy make that much of a difference? There’s something in here about family in a larger sense I think that goes beyond “living the dream” and says that things aren’t the same unless everyone is here. It’s like when someone skips the family reunion and we just have to call them on the phone when everyone is around. Peacebang and I have a mutual friend in Dr. Rachel Bundang and she recalled a trip to the Phillipines where she passed the phone around to all her family members so they could talk to her mother and father and share in the joy of family.

Perhaps this is how God looks to each one of us and it’s the true beatific vision of the last days when all division ceases and we move into a new life of union with God?

I think it’s less about sexism and more about unity–that one just can’t be apart from the ones that they love.

And that means everyone–whether that means marriage for some, or reunion for others or even Gary’s longing to connect with who he really is–I think the show is all about not living life in a vacuum. That life is to be shared and that just work success, or financial success isn’t enough. Or even when we try to ignore who we really are, we end up removing ourselves from the world and end up in disharmony.

And that’s not a happy song…but this is:

Notice the clergyman in the wedding scene and that they got married in the church! We have a need for one another–and that’s church, folks.

Muppet Inspirations

So Marion and I went to see the Muppet Movie last night after putting it off for a few weeks. It reminded me of my friend Fr. Eric Andrews, CSP. Why?

Fr. Eric used to work for the Muppets before he was ordained to the priesthood and now he’s making movies at Paulist Productions in Los Angeles. He just helped produce a Hallmark Movie with Betty White this past Valentine’s Day.

But while he’s this groovy TV and Film guy, I remember him as Fr. Eric. The cool young recently ordained priest who gave clever homilies where he sometimes (ok MOST of the time) sang a Frank Sinatra song to make a point about the gospel. He even sang “Young at Heart” to Marion and I at our wedding.

Moreover, I often remember him as a friend. Someone who would make sure that young people were included in the church and who reached out to them. He would look for people’s gifts and include them where they would contribute. He asked me to help him and Fr. Brett Hoover, CSP start a young adult group and that probably changed my life and inspired me to leave the media–but not completely, changing a career from a media focus to a ministry.

Just like he did.

When Fr. Eric left the Muppets, they gave him a Kermit with a Priest’s collar on. It sits somewhere in his office. I think it’s been people who can express joy in their priesthood who have brought much life to me. So Fr. Eric, this one’s for you…

May you never be so afraid to mess things up that you stop being a joyful priest. See ya in the movies.

Day 5: 50 Day Giveaway: Gonzo is Gonzo

I find it hard to believe that I gave away my Gonzo Muppet. I’m a huge fan of the Muppets and Gonzo is one of my favorites. I can’t remember who gave this to me, but my friend Fr. Eric Andrews, CSP, used to work for Jim Henson and I always coveted his Kermit the Frog Muppet with the priest collar on it.

Slowly but surely, I have started to feel a bit un-cluttered. The book shelves are starting to empty and the closet is starting to be free of stuff that I haven’t worn or plan to wear in some time.

The lesson I’m drawing on here is that I need less and in fact, I want less. There’s really very little that I crave. When someone asks what to get me for a birthday or anniversary, I often don’t know how to respond. I often ask for restaurant gift certificates or tickets to something so I can take a friend or my wife out for an evening, rather than to simply harp on something from my own selfish instincts.

Perhaps God really does give me all I need? And while I do want some things, perhaps I’m noticing the huge disparity between what I have hoarded and what I really crave? That’s a great moment of insight for me.

A technical note: I’m about to head to Cleveland where I’m not sure what the internet access situation is. So I’m trying to give away things in advance of my trip, just in case, there’s an issue of not being able to be online while we’re away at the Catholic Worker house in Cleveland.

Lastly, if you don’t know what the BustedHalo® Fast, Pray, Give Calendar is…