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4:31pm December 16, 2011

The Muppets Go Hood

muppets-moopets

I will say up front that I don’t have any 9-year old nieces and nephews readily available that require me to go to kids movies. Therefore outside of holiday season I’m not going to see movies like Cars, or Kung-Fu Panda, preferring my more sophisticated fare like Captain America, Thor and whatever movie that guy in the Dr. Pepper commercial is starring in.

I guess that explains why I missed the fact that the Muppet Movie is apparently the newest entrant into the ‘unnecessarily racist movie’ hall of fame.

Over at Tumbler Feed Millenium Kids there is a pretty extensive break-down of the new film The Muppets and how the characters The Moopets are a really obnoxious and blatantly racist foil for the main characters. Apparently like most film series that have had a long hiatus, the Muppet movie revolves around getting the whole gang back together. While Miss Piggy and Kermit have moved on to different careers, Fozzie has joined this modern knock off version of the Muppets called The Moopets.

What distinguishes the Moopets? Well first they are (*gasp*) gangsta rappers! They wear gold chains, are rude and obnoxious, none of them really talk save Ms. Poogy (the miss Piggy knock-off) and they are all conspicuously darker in color than any of the main Muppet characters. You can see where all of this is going.

The idea of ‘blackening’ up or ‘urbanizing’ classic characters is usually on an incredibly steep and banana peel-laden slope down to racial stereotyping and general bigotry. It runs the gambit from those lame knock-off Black Bart T-Shirts from just about any 90’s Black culture festival to the incredibly overdone joke about ‘hood’ or ‘ghetto’ Barbie. Pretty soon you’re into Skids and Mudflap territory and I’m about to walk out the theater.

I’m not the first person to start screaming that’s racist, but mining tired racial stereotypes is pretty damn lazy on the part of the Muppets writers. Mr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem were obvious knock offs of George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic, and while popular, the funk bands in the 70’s weren’t as mainstream as rap groups today. If anything, the real anti-thesis to the large musical numbers that defined the Muppets wouldn’t be an ensemble rap group but some soulless pop bubble gum boy band or teen crooner. I’m sure that M’Pets, Fozzie Beaver or the Back of Sesame Street Boys would’ve made the point just as well, but inspired less irritation.

Dr. Jason Johnson, Politic365 Chief Political Correspondent, is a professor of Political Science at Hiram College in Ohio and author of the book Political Consultants and Campaigns: One Day to Sell. You can read more at www.drjasonjohnson.com or follow him on Twitter @Drjasonjohnson



About the Author

Jason Johnson
Jason Johnson





 
 

 
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10 Comments


  1. Dan

    The Moopets were not darker in color as they were not even created especially for the film. All of them, to my knowledge, used earlier, more weathered versions of the existing characters. I don’t see how they were racist. Gangsters and thug types come in all races these days. It’s not a stereotype of a race, it’s a stereotype of gang and thug culture, a culture which has chosen to wrap itself in a less than positive light.

    I also have to correct you on the other characters you mention…It’s DR. Teeth not Mr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, none of which were based on Parliment. Dr. Teeth was insprired by New Orleans musician Dr. John. Janice was taken from Joni Mitchel. Floyd, whose full name is Sgt Floyd Pepper was based on Sgt Pepper and to a lesser extent, Pink Floyd (He’s Pink). Animal was based on the drummer for the who, and unfortunately, Zoot’s origin escapes me.


    • cutesie

      no, i just saw the movie. they were definitely darker. the showdown between miss piggy and miss poogy (or whatever) made me internally gasp. piggy was white and blonde, while poogy was BROWN with black curly hair. i mean come on. and yes, the antagonizing of the "hip hop" culture is somewhat racist or at least classist. black people, or more generally, urban people, started that culture and it has and will forever continue to have that joint association.

      "it's a stereotype of gang and thug culture, a culture which has chosen to wrap itself in a less than positive light."

      have to disagree with you again. there is plenty of hip hop music that is inspiring, intellectual, and not just "gangster" rap. wearing a gold chain, a black fitted/skully cap, etc. does NOT make you ghetto or thug. it is simply an urban style. your statement illustrates the exact ignorant views of "smalltown" or "white" america who probably know very little about the culture. the movie just further tied "blackness" or "urbanness" to "ghetto, gangster, evil," etc. and such an association is blatantly stereotypical, racist, outdated and wrong. get with the program people!


  2. James

    You should see the move before you label it racist. I didn't notice that the Moopets were darker shades. Can't even notice it in the picture above. Also The Moopets were covering Muppets songs like Rainbow Connection, not singing gansta rap.


  3. Erica

    I am extremely sensitive to these types of depictions, like the illiterate brothers with gold teeth in Transformers 2. Now I saw the Muppets and I have to agree w/ James they were not noticeably darker. I did not immediately assume they were black or of color, just hip-hop generation. If anything one reminded me of Vanilla Ice. I would not pass judgement on The Moopets, when viewed in context it was well done and very funny.


  4. [...] article originally appeared online at Politic365.com. GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", "other"); [...]


  5. Dan

    I should also point out that only Fozzies doppleganger was gang related to gang culture. Rowlf was a biker and the Kermit character was based on spikey colored punks.


  6. [...] The Muppets Go Hood Dr. Jason Johnson, Politic365 Chief Political Correspondent, is a professor of Political Science at Hiram College in Ohio and author of the book Political Consultants and Campaigns: One Day to Sell. You can read more at http://www.drjasonjohnson.com or follow … Read more on Politic365 [...]


  7. Jonathan

    And one who things that The Muppets are racist is too ignorant to have an opinion.


  8. cutesie

    it wasn't so much the color that had me (although i did notice it immediately, and felt disappointed that once again, the movie seemed to perpetuate the "light is right" theme in our society), but the fact that the Moopets had to wear gold chains, skully caps, and clearly look/act "thugged" out. and on top of that, the "bad guy" sings the ONE rap song. ugh it was just insulting to the hip hop and rap culture. yes gangster rap is part of hip hop, but it does not define the entire culture. just like that one bad neighborhood with all minorities living there does not define EVERY minority. i agree with the author that some vapid boy/pop band would have gotten the point across just as well, sans the racially sensitive stereotype of "urban muppets" = "evil muppets"



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