The Muppets -  The Muppets And The Lack Of Female Representation (1501 views) Notify me whenever anyone posts in this discussion.Subscribe
 
From: Jesse Blue (MistyLee422)5/27/20 8:01 PM 
To: All  (1 of 26) 
 18189.1 

So, this has been something talked about many times before (including on this site with these great articles), but I want to bring it up. Something that's been prevalent for The Muppets since The Muppet Show is the lack of primary female Muppets, very few notable women behind the scenes, and especially primary female Muppet performers. I'm not sure if you could call The Muppets franchise sexist, but it's something that's still persisting to this day. Think about it. When you think about female Muppets, the first ones you think of are either Ms Piggy or Janice, and that's it. Their primary performers are both men (Frank Oz and Eric Jacobson for the former & Richard Hunt and David Rudman for the latter). While neither are one note, most of Janice's character is tied to Electric Mayhem, and with Piggy, it's either her diva personality or her relationship with Kermit. Even Gonzo's chickens have male performers like Matt Vogel. Plus, how many  female Muppets have had a major presence in more than 2 projects?


The 2015 ABC Muppets series did try to make some strides, but Denise was mostly defined by her relationship with Kermit (unlike Piggy), and while Yolanda the rat received a somewhat bigger role, she hasn't done much since the show ended. As for behind the scenes, there haven't been that many female writers or producers . As for puppeteers, how many PRIMARY performers can you associate with The Muppets? Not much. The closest would probably be Julianne Buescher (Denise and Yolanda), but even she's more associated with projects outside the Muppets. 

It's often mentioned how Sesame Street has a much better grasp on female representation, and I completely agree. I mean, with major characters like Prairie Dawn, Rosita, Abby, Zoe, Grundgetta, and Julia (as well as some recurring characters like Curly Bear and Goldilocks, although they've been more downplayed recently), you have a show where girls have characters that they can relate to on some level. They're also all performed by women. Plus, look at some of the female writers on the show: to name a few, we have Christine Ferraro, Geri Cole, Jessica Carleton, Raye Lankford, and Liz Hara.

Even outside of Sesame Street, there are still puppetry shows that have a better job with female representation. For example, Julie's Greenroom has 3 of the Greenies performed by women (Peri, Fizz, and Riley, the latter being non-binary), all of whom have their own distinct personalities. One of the show's writers is also female, Alex Rockwell, from the Jim Henson Company. Between The Lions is co-created by Kathryn Mullen, which focuses on a family of lions (with Leo the father, Cleo the mother, Lionel the son, and Leona the daughter). Cleo and Leona are also performed by women (Jennifer Barnhart for the former and Kathryn Mullen & later Pam Arciero for the latter). Even Helpsters, which is created by a man (Tim McKeon) still has significant female representation. Three of the Helpsters (Cody, Heart, and Jackie) are female and all performed by women (Stephanie D'Abruzzo, Ingrid Hansen, and Jennifer Barnhart). Many of the show's writers and producers are female, including Liz Hara (writer/producer) (Sesame Street), Laurie Israel (writer) (Sofia The First, Fancy Nancy), Amy Keating Rogers (writer) (My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, TOTS), as well as the writing duo of Alex Fox & Rachel Lewis (writers/producers) (The Stinky And Dirty Show, Vampirina). 

Now let's talk about Muppet Babies 2018. While it's more male skewing (male showrunner, male director, more male characters), there's still plenty of elements that make the show more accommodating to females, both in the show and behind the scenes. Piggy and Summer both have female voice actors (Melanie Harrison and Jessica DiCicco respectively, with the former also voicing Camilla). Skeeter herself actually has a female voice actor (Cree Summer), unlike the original Muppet Babies, where she's voiced by adult men. As for behind the scenes, there's plenty. Robyn Brown wrote the most amount of episodes in season 1. As of season 2, she's the story editor. When looking on her LinkedIn, it's revealed she'll be a co-producer in season 3. As for other female writers, we have Ghia Godfree (with this show being the first show she ever wrote for), Laura Sreenby (mainly in season 1, but she's written a bit for season 2), and we have the sibling writing duo of Melanie Lobracio Wilson and Adam Wilson (Adam is male, but it felt weird to bring only one of them up). The show's voice director is also a woman (Collette Sunderman). There have also been some one shots from Chelsea Beyl and Claudia Silver (who's worked on Bear In The Big Blue House and The Book Of Pooh). It's too bad this isn't recognized by the public at large.

And that's all I have to say. The Muppets don't have the best reputation with female representation. Why is that? What do you think can be done to fix this?

http://www.toughpigs.com/female-muppets/

http://www.toughpigs.com/womens-history-week-the-need-to-do-better/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/robyn-brown-b352904

  • Edited May 27, 2020 8:45 pm  by  Jesse Blue (MistyLee422)
 
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From: -Ryan R- (PrawnRR) Posted by host5/27/20 8:48 PM 
To: Jesse Blue (MistyLee422)  (2 of 26) 
 18189.2 in reply to 18189.1 

It's definitely been an issue for a long time. Fraggle Rock was really the first Muppet production where it feels like female performers and characters are approximately equal to their male counterparts. Sesame Street has definitely improved, but the Disney-owned Muppets... haven't. Muppets Tonight is full of male-gaze jokes and the only prominent new female character is a cartoonishly sexy airhead.

I had high hopes for Denise, but she ended up being a mostly marginalized character. What they did with Yolanda was good. They should keep featuring her in new stuff, and they should really introduce a new female Muppet or two. (At some point somebody -- possibly me -- asked the question, Why couldn't Walter have been a young woman? And somebody -- possibly Anthony replied, because he's a Muppet version of Jason Segel, and Jason Segel is a man.)

 

 
From: Karsten (PigsLaundry2)5/27/20 11:12 PM 
To: -Ryan R- (PrawnRR)  (3 of 26) 
 18189.3 in reply to 18189.2 

That's a good point about Walter. That actually reminds me of a video I watched recently about how male is usually considered the default when it comes to creating characters. Male is the assumed norm, even when the character doesn't have any particularly masculine or feminine traits

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWK4kKf5cQE&t=3s
 

That being said, yeah, traditionally female representation within the Muppet performer world has been lacking, but nowadays it seems like you usually have a least a few lady performers on the sets of major productions. Plus, why not bring in some of the Sesame Street performers if you need to? Or some of the ones from The Jim Henson Company? Or is this just not logistically possible for some reason?

Either way, yeah, I like what they've been doing with Yolanda. If you ask me, now that Steve is gone, I wouldn't mind her taking Rizzo's place in the cast. It would be cool to see her and Gonzo hit it off, and just be platonic buddies. Not to mention, it would be a shame not to keep Julianne Buescher on as a major part of the core group of performers- she's funny, versatile, and good at improv.

 

 
From: Jesse Blue (MistyLee422)5/28/20 4:46 AM 
To: Karsten (PigsLaundry2)  (4 of 26) 
 18189.4 in reply to 18189.3 

2. There have been female performers in various Muppet productions, but they're generally credited under "additional Muppet Performers", such as "The Muppets: Letters To Santa" (with this credit going to Pam Arciero, Leslie Carrera Rudolph, and Stephanie D'Abruzzo, to name a few), The Muppets 2011 (with Leslie, as well as Karen Prell, being among those with this credit), and Muppets Most Wanted (with Julianne Buescher and Louise Gold being among those credited this way). As for The Jim Henson Company, they mainly use Los Angeles based performers due to being based there, and (though I could be wrong), most Muppet productions that don't involve traveling to another place are usually shot in New York. Would they be able to travel back and forth?

3. I think with Julianne Buescher, she's been more closely associated with The Jim Henson Company, and only recently is she more of a core Muppet performer. If you look at her IMDb, you'll see she's mostly done voiceover these days in projects with Los Angeles based voice actors.

https://m.imdb.com/name/nm0003925/filmotype/actress?ref_=m_nmfm_1

 

 
From: Scott (scarecroe) DelphiPlus Member Icon5/28/20 8:26 AM 
To: Karsten (PigsLaundry2)  (5 of 26) 
 18189.5 in reply to 18189.3 

Karsten (PigsLaundry2) said...

Male is the assumed norm


We see this all the time, especially in written descriptions of media.

The most recent one I came across was last night while searching for something to watch, I looked over the description for the 2019 movie The Hustle featuring Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson.

It reads:

"Two female scam artists (Anne Hathaway, Rebel Wilson) compete to swindle a naïve tech prodigy out of his fortune."

Which is funny, because if the movie starred Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, it would just be "Two scam artists..."

It reminds me of this meme, which I'm sure I've posted here before:

 

 
From: Maria (maluthefrogg)5/28/20 11:55 AM 
To: Jesse Blue (MistyLee422)  (6 of 26) 
 18189.6 in reply to 18189.1 

In the 70s, female representation was not that good. Wait, there were Wonder Woman and Charlie's Angels... so I don't know! That's so confusing!

But I will see if there is a solution...

Is this "solution" supposed to be in Muppets Now or something?

 

 
From: Jesse Blue (MistyLee422)5/28/20 12:01 PM 
To: Maria (maluthefrogg)  (7 of 26) 
 18189.7 in reply to 18189.6 

The solution doesn't have to be in Muppets Now , but something would be nice.

 

 
From: Maria (maluthefrogg)5/28/20 12:55 PM 
To: Jesse Blue (MistyLee422)  (8 of 26) 
 18189.8 in reply to 18189.7 

Ryan's Walter thing made me have an idea: You've seen Jim, Jerry and Frank as Muppets. But how about Jane, Louise and Fran? Yes, a Female Country Trio! 

 

 
From: Andrew Leal (Frawleyfan)5/28/20 5:27 PM 
To: Scott (scarecroe) DelphiPlus Member Icon  (9 of 26) 
 18189.9 in reply to 18189.5 

To me that only makes sense if either gender is essential to the contrast or relationship (usually of the "they vary wildly but marry and have hijinks and/or fight crime!" sort of scenario) or if it's specific to a historical period where the presence of a specific gender in a role would have been of some note (Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman) or arguably it's a specific trope (little old lady solves crimes subtly because she's a little old lady). If it's modern day (or even just a few decades back but made now), yeah, that's just off putting. 

It is kind of interesting to note, say, descriptions of Katherine Hepburn's roles in reviews or marketing over the years as they went from stuff like "champion lady athlete" (which is the premise of PAT AND MIKE, the fact that she's a woman who's skilled at many sports) to just being "head of the network research department" in DESK SET five years later (where her staff is all female, but apart from the occasional "Come on, girls," it's not really remarked upon, and the only male staff seen anyway are a gossipy personnel guy, the blustery head of the network, Kate's VP love interest, and an office boy, plus Spencer Tracy as an eccentric consultant who has his own efficient assistant played by a woman; then again, the whole thing genders the giant computer as "Emmy").

 

 
From: Grant (GrantHarding)5/28/20 5:51 PM 
To: Jesse Blue (MistyLee422)  (10 of 26) 
 18189.10 in reply to 18189.1 

If I ran the zoo, I would recast Janice and Camilla with female performers. Miss Piggy is a "draggy" enough character that I think she has to be performed by a man, but for the other two, there's no reason women couldn't do it.

I would also bring in Skeeter and Summer as adult Muppets.

 

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