This is my 100th post on this blog, and I wanted it to be something special. So I want to go a little more in depth about my thoughts and feelings on “Muppet Family Christmas.”
Let me take you back to a time in December 1987, when I was a tender and callow seven-year-old. I had seen The Muppet Movie and The Muppets Take Manhattan, (and possibly The Great Muppet Caper, although I think that actually happened later) so I wasn’t unfamiliar with the Muppet Show troupe, but we didn’t own any of those movies on home video yet, so while this wasn’t my introduction to the Muppet Show gang, it was the means by which I got to know them. This was also one of the two times in my young life that I ever got to see the Fraggles on television, so that was really exciting for me.
Being the South Dakotan that I am, the main plot thread about Miss Piggy getting stranded in a snowstorm on the way to meet the others at the farmhouse really resonates with me. True story: South Dakota was hit by such at terrible snowstorm during Christmas 2009 that my family had to postpone our Christmas celebration until February.
And yet, I think this special and the Muppet movies kind of spoiled Miss Piggy for me; by which I mean that I think they gave me a mistaken idea of who Miss Piggy is and what she represents. You see, I didn’t get to see The Muppet Show until I was an adult, so I wasn’t exposed from an early age to the…more caustic aspects of Miss Piggy’s personality. In the movies–at least the early movies–Miss Piggy plays a much nicer version of herself than appeared on the Muppet Show; she’s not as self-centered in those movies and rarely, if ever, hits anybody who doesn’t deserve it. Here she never hits anybody at all, and the sweeter aspects of her personality are on more prominent display–more sugar than spice, if you will. So later, when I got to see Miss Piggy’s entire personality on display, it was quite a shock.
However, speaking of Miss Piggy reminds me of the moment in the special that always makes me laugh: Maureen the Mink. Being the Muppet heretic that I am, I must be the only fan in all of Muppetdom who likes that joke; everyone else seems to think it’s weird and lame–and I suppose it is, if you’re the sort of person who insists on overthinking everything. Look at just about any of the reviews of this special that are online; veteran Muppet fans and newbies alike pull out that joke specifically and say, “What the hell was that?”
Well, fie upon ’em; I think it’s hilarious, if only for this exchange:
MAUREEN THE MINK: Hi! I’m Maureen the Mink!
MISS PIGGY (incredulously): WHAT?!?
KERMIT (as sincerely and guilelessly as possible): She said, “Hi, I’m Maureen the Mink.”
Thirty years after the fact, this special has a strange, Camelot-esque quality to it. For one, brief, shining moment, the Muppets were on top of the world…the different branches of the Muppet family tree could all get together under one roof without the lawyers getting involved or money changing hands…all the Muppet performers were respected and valued…all the organization was united with a single purpose…and there were no schisms, no conflicts that couldn’t be smoothed over and healed. It was such a short period of time–really, only two and a half years–before everything changed irrevocably with Jim’s death.
Death is inevitable, of course–and so, I suppose, is change. But at least Jim gave us this beautiful special–this perfect Muppet moment, frozen forever in time–before he left us.