Meet Denise. Kermit the Frog has ended things with Miss Piggy, but he still has a type, in the upcoming ABC series, The Muppets, which will favor a documentary over a vaudeville show this time around. While many fans are horrified that their favorite celebrity couple could not make it, others have become very vocal in what just may be a very real debate on gender roles and domestic abuse in American society.
Interestingly enough, many fans have been vocal in their support of Kermit. This group of fans usually is quick to point out that Miss Piggy has shown to be physically abusive towards her frog fiancée in the past. That, and her habit of trying to force and occasionally trick Kermit into marriage, is often used by detractors to say their relationship would have become much more controversial if the genders are reversed. The Donkey of the Day radio show discussed this issue on the show in the clip above.
Piggy does have her defenders, however, who are quick to point out that Kermit only gets as much as he gives out. Piggy’s normally kind and loving towards Kermit, and her bursts of outrage are usually sparked by Kermit’s bullying. In one clip of The Muppet Show, Piggy only hits Kermit after he publicly demoralized and mocked her for being a pig, which was his rather violent reaction to her calmly and rather sheepishly asking to get out of a visit to his family’s swamp, out of fear of the local alligators. You heard right, Kermit, normally the voice of reason, went out of his way to bully Piggy when she was scared for her life.
The gender debate goes further than a lovers’ quarrel. As her detractors have pointed out, Piggy is usually abusive towards many of her male co-stars. In the show, and its many incarnations, Gonzo also has an unrequited crush on Piggy, and it usually only gets him on the receiving end of a pork-chop. Even the female co-stars are not safe, at least off-screen. Don’t forget Miss Piggy has been recorded confessing to have brutally mutilated Kermit’s original girlfriend, Miss Mousey, by cutting her in half during a screen test as seen below.
The New Republic posted an article, “Kermit Has a New Girlfriend? Good. His Last One Was a Domestic Abuser,” that discussed this, saying,
“Part of that shame comes from the same incongruence which makes us see the Piggy/Kermit relationship as amusing. When women (or female pigs) hit men, it’s funny because it’s unexpected—and because it violates our sense of how gender roles should work; when men are beaten, they cease to be men, and become emasculated and feminized. Likewise, Piggy’s karate-chops are funny because women who are powerful and violent cease to be classically female, and become swaggeringly masculine. That turns Piggy into a feminist icon, to some degree—but it’s also why she’s treated, throughout Muppet shows and movies, as a joke.”
This, however, is not to say that the article was in support of such behavior, saying, “After 40 years, it’s time to stop laughing at men who are victims, and at women who aren’t.”
On the flip side, there is likely going to be some criticism that Kermit’s new love interest, Denise, who appears to be much more kind-hearted and sweet-tempered than her predecessor, is also noticeably younger and more feminine than her rival. Of course, Piggy is hardly unfeminine herself, now is she? Despite popular belief, Denise is actually not the first female pig to serve as a foil, and more often than not, rival for spotlight, to Miss Piggy.
In the original British television show, there was Annie Sue, and in the short-lived Muppets Tonight, there was Spamela, who also resurfaced in the comics. In fact, sources indicate that Spamela was originally meant to be Kermit’s love interest in the new reboot, since her puppet was the one who appeared in the leaked pilot, before settling on another sow. However, Denise is the first to serve as a rival in love to Piggy.
The Muppets is set to air September 22, later this month.