Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Muppets go into PSA mode for their most empowering episode to date

Illustration for article titled The Muppets go into PSA mode for their most empowering episode to date

On a surface level, the title “A Tail Of Two Piggies” refers to the duo of pigs at its center: Miss Piggy (of course) and a porcine teenager named Alynda who looks up to her. That admiration grows ten-fold when, while at a red-carpet event, Piggy’s tail pops out of her too-tight gown, much to the horror of Uncle Deadly. That exact same thing (sans Deadly) happened to Alynda at school, and seeing her idol experience an identical wardrobe malfunction makes her feel better about the whole ordeal.

But the title has a double meaning that goes beyond its silly pun, as the two pigs could also refer exclusively to Piggy herself. There’s the Piggy who feels intense embarrassment over the ridicule and tabloid stories that follow. Then there’s the Piggy who, after meeting Alynda, realizes it’s not her who’s the problem, but everyone else. Why should she feel shame for a tiny portion of her body being exposed? Kermit gets to walk around naked all the time, as do Bobo, Fozzie (mostly), Rowlf, and so many of the other Muppets. Writers Nell Scovell and Steve Rudnick further enforce the absurdity of the situation by showing Pepe—a character who usually does wear clothes—lounging naked on a shag carpet right in the middle of the office. He’s making decisions about flooring in his new home shared by Gonzo and Rizzo, but still, there’s no double standard for him, so why is there one for Piggy?

The episode never answers that question, and it doesn’t need to since we all know the answer. For one, Piggy’s female. Two, she’s a powerful female. Three, she’s a powerful female who also happens to be a pig, an animal that often becomes a metaphor for someone who’s chastised for being overweight, gluttonous, or just plain disgusting. Seeing as Miss Piggy’s not a metaphor, but the literal source material for the metaphor, it’s no surprise that the public believes she should keep a part of her nether regions covered, even if it is just a harmless little tail.

Despite the number of reasons why Piggy shouldn’t give a shit what anyone else thinks about the incident, Scovell and Rudnick know the character well enough to make her transition from pariah to role model gradual—not immediate. For better or for worse, she’s someone who very much does care what people think about her. There’s also the more tangible problem of pressure from network president Lucy Royce and Sam the Eagle (another perpetually nude Muppet, it’s worth noting) to apologize; otherwise, Up Late With Miss Piggy could lose its sponsors. It takes not only her meeting with the endearingly wide-eyed Alynda, but some encouraging from her colleagues and her ex (who seems to be permanently out of Kermit the Dick mode) to take a stand on the air. After a PSA and a social-media campaign with the cheeky hashtag #UnveilTheTail, all of the other Muppets mock the censorship by showing off their own (fake) pigtails attached to their rears, seeing as Piggy’s forbidden from displaying her real one.

But it’s an appearance by musical guest Joan Jett that solidifies the episode as ultimately being about female empowerment. Being a feminist icon, Jett’s presence alone is enough to amp up the half-hour’s themes of individualism and self-worth, and when she shows off her own tail then launches into “Bad Reputation,” The Muppets achieves a sublime level of badassery. Just as “Going, Going, Gonzo” did last year, “A Tail Of Two Piggies” proves that the human guest stars work best when they’re serving as inspirations to the puppet characters at the center.

As if to stick it to all the viewers who had a problem with the PG-13 sex talk and nudity on The Muppets in the first half of the season, “A Tale Of Two Piggies” ends with a pool party at Gonzo, Rizzo, and Pepe’s new pad. That means shirtless Gonzo on the roof, more Pepe in the buff, and The Electric Mayhem (and Ian Ziering!) chilling out in a jacuzzi. The entire sequence proposes that, at the end of the day, what’s a little skin anyway? The Muppets are still the Muppets, regardless of how much felt they show. Likewise, Miss Piggy’s still very much a pig. And very much a woman.


Stray observations

  • There’s no good reason for Miss Piggy to be at a Zootopia premiere. Disney has absolutely no shame about self-promotion!
  • I know we mostly talk about him in the comments section and stray observations, but Uncle Deadly remains the show’s MVP. Tonight may be the episode where he gets the most screen-time.
  • Does anyone think Animal’s tweet-guessing game should warrant that much enthusiastic laughter from the audience? At least it’s a step up from Pepe’s Uber driver.
  • Gonzo, Rizzo, and Pepe’s bit about the chicken crossing the road feels like a condensed Muppets version of “Who’s On First?”
  • Speaking of which, Camilla makes her triumphant return! As happy as I am to have her back, I’m hoping we still get to see Gonzo, Rizzo, and Pepe’s adventures in bachelorhood for at least a little while longer.
  • I’ve never seen an episode of Beverly Hills 90210, but before his cameo in the jacuzzi, I guessed that Ian Ziering’s the blonde dude who’s not Jason Priestley or Luke Perry. I guessed right!
  • “You are aware your name is Miss Piggy.” “So? Letterman doesn’t work at the post office.”