The Rainbow Connection.

Source: Wikipedia

The Muppet Movie is the ideal movie for Pride Month.

That may sound like a completely random thought but it’s something that occurred to me both after I watched the new documentary Jim Henson: Idea Man about the life and work of Jim Henson and also reading the article On the Cultural Significance of ‘The Muppet Movie’ in the Nashville Scene.

Neither of those make any connection between the Muppets and LGBTQ+ community–in spite of its title the Scene article is really too short to do anything but highlight a few aspects the original film’s significance–but it’s something I thought about because, like many LGTBTQ+ people—and, for that matter, most of us who’ve felt like outsiders for whatever reason—the Muppets are a diverse bunch of odd characters who may seem like they have nothing in common but who form a family anyway. Jim Henson himself did the same thing, bringing a wide range of performers together into what ultimately became a family as they all worked together and shared time together through multiple projects. Although most of the performers behind the Muppets were straight there were a few who were gay, like Richard Hunt, who was hired to work on Sesame Street in its early years and he performed the character Scooter who was introduced on The Muppet Show.

Jim Henson wasn’t gay and neither is Frank Oz, but they were very close friends. Friendship is a form of love and I think they expressed that through the Muppets’ most endearing, enduring, and difficult couple—the on-again-off-again-who-knows-what’s-going-on-or-off relationship between Kermit and Miss Piggy. A relationship between a frog and a pig may seem transgressive, if not downright impossible, but love is love. Henson and Oz also originated another long-term Muppet couple, Bert and Ernie, who also love each other enough to stick together in spite of–or maybe because of–their differences.

There’s another old Muppet couple, Waldorf and Statler. I don’t like to stereotype but others have pointed out that they’re apparently single men who spend all their time together, and most of it at the theater where they sit in a booth making catty remarks. Whatever their relationship is they make each other laugh, and that counts for a lot.

Speaking of theaters Henson chose to model The Muppet Show theater on British dance halls, Theaters have a long history of being safe places for LGBTQ+ people—it’s not a coincidence that Polari, slang used by gay men to communicate discreetly—was also popular among actors, singers, and circus folk. And the Muppet theater, like Sesame Street, is a place where everyone is welcome.

These are just a few thoughts I had but the Muppets are multi-layered and complicated and, more than anything else, they’re for everyone. The Muppet Movie begins with Kermit singing “The Rainbow Connection” and ends with all the Muppets singing it together, and accepting each other. It’s why the Muppets still matter, and because they’re united by what they share rather than what makes them different we can see ourselves in them. Personally I’ve always felt a kinship with Fozzie Bear, who manages to make the worst jokes funny, but the point is that there’s at least one Muppet for everyone, and those lines still ring true:

Someday we’ll find it,

the rainbow connection,

the lovers, the dreamers, and me.

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4 Comments

  1. mydangblog

    The Muppets are all about love so they represent Pride very well????
    mydangblog recently posted…It’s A MysteryMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’m surprised this point doesn’t get made more often: the backstory of almost every Muppet is they’ve been rejected everywhere else so they formed their own club. And then rather than make it exclusive they invited everyone to join.

      Reply
  2. Allison

    I love this. I know there’s an image somewhere that comes up during Pride with a rainbow of Muppets with varying skin/fur/feather colors…

    In third grade, my best friend and I sang the song for our talent show. I think of that, her, and the movie often. Have you tried Hare Krishna?

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Holy mackerel, I’d completely forgotten the Hare Krishna line. I’m sure that went right over my head when I saw it in the theater but it’s so funny now. I need to rewatch The Muppet Movie. Most of the celebrities also completely went by me. I had only a vague idea of who Orson Welles was, for instance, but I thought he must be cool because he was with the Muppets. And I think that’s the point that can’t be emphasized enough: the Muppets welcome everyone and they make everyone better.

      Reply

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