life lessons courtesy of the Muppets

Miss Piggy is my role model. I’ve spent years trying to deny it, hiding my true feelings by claiming that she’s my least favorite of the Muppets gang and that I find her karate chops and shrieks annoying. But after seeing The Muppets recently, and experiencing a surge of nostalgia so strong it startled me, I can no longer fight it. I aspire — I suppose I always have aspired — to be Miss Piggy.

I adored the movie. Jason Segel, a comic hero of mine since his Freaks and Geeks days, did a fine job rebooting the beloved franchise. From the very first moments of the movie through the closing credits (featuring the infectious “Mahna Mahna” song) I was sporting a huge smile, the kind of smile that could only be brought on by some serious walking down memory lane. I had forgotten what an impact those fuzzy puppets had on my childhood. Seeing my old friends through adult eyes brought all those feelings to the forefront and I understand now, perhaps for the first time, why Kermit and the gang were so important to me.

1. The Muppets taught me about friendship. The Muppets were so much more than just a strange collection of animals and humans and animal/human hybrids. They were a family — a big group of strong personalities who were constantly bickering and getting on each other’s nerves, but who would ultimately do anything for one another. Through love and loss and bad jokes and misfiring experiments and human cannonballs, they comforted and supported each other, and they celebrated each other’s quirky talents. And if that’s not friendship, I don’t know what is.

I can’t help but think Thelma and Louise is at least in part based on Kermit and Fozzie’s friendship. I love this road trip scene and I will never forget how hard I laughed at the fork in the road. So clever!

2. The Muppets taught me about acceptance. There’s a frog, a bear, a pig, a dog, a lot of chickens, some aliens and some weird hook-nosed guy (really, what is Gonzo?). If this were a Natural Geographic special, someone would likely be losing a limb. But in the Muppets’ world, it’s perfect harmony among species. Looking at it now, I understand what Jim Henson was trying to tell me. It doesn’t matter what you look like or where you came from, or even in what part of the food chain (or galaxy) you reside, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

3. The Muppets taught me how to overcome adversity. I remember it like it was yesterday: the moment in The Muppet Movie when Kermit and Fozzie inadvertently leave the giant Sweetums behind at the car lot. This scene traumatized me, and I have thought about it often since I was about five years old. It made me so profoundly sad, the way that this big giant oaf is running after the car, wanting so desperately to join his newfound friends in an adventure to Hollywood. And while I know Sweetums eventually meets up with his friends in the end, this scene left in me such a paralyzing fear of being left behind that I’ve spent my life working hard to prevent that from ever happening. Sheesh…who knew a kids puppet movie could be so anxiety-inducing?

4. The Muppets taught me about hard work. Through countless episodes of The Muppet Show and several movies, the Muppet gang showed me the value of putting forth real effort to make things happen. In so many challenges overcome and problems solved, Kermit, Miss Piggy and friends taught me that I could achieve anything with a little ingenuity. But it was their puppet cousins over at Fraggle Rock that really drove that point home. I loved that show — I even prided myself on never having missed an episode (pre-DVR, what am I saying? Pre-VHS!) — but I often found the Fraggles’ brand of hippie tomfoolery to be a little immature. This from a 7-year-old. But I could always identify with the hard-hat wearing Doozers.They kept Fraggle Rock operating so those silly Fraggles could sing songs and eat radishes all day. I knew right away I would rather be a Doozer.

5. The Muppets taught me to sing, sing, sing. The Muppets were always singing, but two musical memories in particular left indelible marks on my heart. The first is a memory that is closely tied to my Grandma Devine, though I’m not really sure why. It’s an episode of The Muppet Show featuring Canadian songstress Anne Murray singing her hit “Snowbird.” Murray has the most soothing and pleasantly, well, Canadian voice. It’s a scene — with Murray in her white fur coat on that wintry stage — that always makes me smile and brings me peace.

The second memory relates to a record my sisters’ and I had of John Denver and The Muppets singing Christmas carols. We listened to that record until it wore out … I think we even listened to it in the middle of summer, we loved it so much. “The 12 Days of Christmas” was my favorite song, with Miss Piggy singing about five gold rings. The record made me giggle and nothing made me more excited for Christmas to come.

The Muppets were always singing and, as it turns out, so am I. I would love nothing more than my life to be an actual musical. And after seeing The Muppets, I am reminded of how much I would love to have Kermit, Fozzie, Gonzo, Scooter, Rolf and Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem be a part of my personal song and dance. And now that I am older and as independent and bossy as ever, I would love to compare notes over cocktails with Miss Piggy.


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