This is a guest review by J. Lee Milliren.
I, like many other Americans, grew up with the Muppets. My personal favorite Muppet was always the zany Gonzo; I loved his ridiculous antics. Although what I really wanted from the Muppets was for there to be more female characters because I could never relate to Miss Piggy. I know that must sound so shocking to hear that a little girl could have a completely different personality than the one female cast member of a group.
But that was then and this is now.
For the Muppets Movie I'm going to try to give a brief summary of the plot, and I'll try to avoid as many spoilers as possible. The movie begins with a new muppet, named Walter, growing up with his human brother, Gary, in a small town. As he grows, up he realizes he's different from Gary and discovers the Muppet Show. Walter becomes the biggest fan of the Muppet Show while his brother is just happy to spend time with Walter.
Years later, Walter is still a big fan of the Muppets while Gary has been in a relationship with Mary for ten years. To celebrate their ten years together, Gary takes Mary to see California for the first time. He also invites Walter to come along, just so he can visit the Muppet Theater. When Walter tours the Theater he sees that it is falling apart, and he accidentally overhears the evil scheming of our villian, Tex Richman. Richman's plan is to tear down the theater and drill the land for oil. This makes Walter run out of the theater, screaming in panic for several hours.
With the help of Gary and Mary, Walter is able to meet up with Kermit the Frog and tell him what he overheard. Kermit says that they might be able to save their theater if he could get the whole gang back together, but they haven't seen each other in years. But through the power of hilarious montages he's able to gather the whole gang back together except for Miss Piggy. Miss Piggy is now working with Vogue in Paris and doesn't want to return to the old gang because of her breakup with Kermit.
Now right off the bat, I have to say this movie was amazing. I laughed nonstop throughout it; I loved almost every second of it, and I recommend that everyone get into your cars and go and see it right now.
My issue with this movie comes down to our two leading ladies: Miss Piggy and Mary, who I feel are almost the same character.
Now when I say this, I don't mean that they act the same, but they do have the same goals and motivations throughout the movie. Which is--marry the man.......or the frog.
Miss Piggy originally refuses to leave Paris because she has a new successful life there. And (spoiler!) when she does return to save the theater, she says she's not doing it for Kermit but for the theater itself. She also sais that she WILL go back to Paris, the moment their last show is done.
Throughout this movie, it is pretty clear that Miss Piggy still has feelings for Kermit and vice versa. And that Miss Piggy does want to be with Kermit. Which isn't a really bad motivation for the character, except it seems to be her only motivation. The Miss Piggy I knew would have come back completely for herself and not for anyone else. The Miss Piggy I knew would have come back just so she could "hog" the center stage once more. But that original goal and motivation for who she was doesn't seem to be there anymore.
Mary is our other leading lady who has been in a relationship with Gary for ten years, and she really wants to marry him. She even goes into a song and dance about it. Of course, I'm sitting there wondering, "Why don't you ask him to marry you, Mary?"
This is taking place in modern time after all, where you know, it isn't weird for the chick to ask the dude. ( I swear, I won't think you're weird if you do pop the question to him, Mary.)
But Noooo. If she wants a ring, he needs to give her one.
One of my biggest issues with these two having the same motivation is that they both only have One motivation and goal. All the other (male) characters have more than one goal and motivation throughout the movie. Walter wants to save the theater, reunite the Muppets, and find his place. Gary wants to be with Mary, and he wants his brother to be happy but struggles with maybe having to let go of him. Kermit wants to save the theater, be with the family that is the Muppets and re-kindle his relationship with Miss Piggy. Even Animal has two goals: wanting to save the theater AND to control his wild side.
I never felt like Miss Piggy truly wanted to save the theater like all the other characters, so I really do think she had only one goal in the movie, and that is to be with Kermit. And our one other leading lady wants only to be married to Gary. I also want to point out that these two ladies never conversed; there is a song where they're both singing about being alone, but they're doing it in separate rooms. So this movie does fail the Bechdel test.
Again, this movie was amazing. I personally loved it. But, I'm also very sad that there still isn't more to the female characters. When a movie is this good and this amazing to watch, I'm personally disheartened when a little bit more effort wasn't given to flesh out the leading women. What kind of message is this sending to a whole new batch of little girls who are meeting the Muppets for the first time, when there are only two leading ladies in a BIG cast ... who both want to be married?
J. Lee Milliren is an active feminist currently in her last year at the Art Institutes International Minnesota where she will earn her bachelor degree in Media Arts and Animation. She takes a critical eye to how characters are portrayed in films.