Thursday, February 16, 2012

Men are Cold-Blooded and Women are Pigs

If I were to choose my least favorite fictional couple, I would have to go with Mickey and Minnie Mouse.  Early cartoons, by their nature, had to be episodic, stand-alone shorts that would make sense for both new and returning audiences.  Through exposure, the consistent personalities of these characters would become recognizable to a wide audience.  You knew what you were in for if you were going to see a "Donald Duck cartoon" vs. a "Goofy cartoon."  The setting and situation would always change, so the characters had to revert to the status quo by the start of each new short.

But since Mickey Mouse was the focus of his cartoons, Minnie always took on the role of whatever moved the story along.  She could be his supportive girlfriend or his long-suffering wife.  Maybe the two are meeting for the first time.  Often, the dilemma would come from Mickey doing something that upset Minnie and he'd have to rectify the situation.  Their relationship status was so complicated that the audience never knew which Mickey they were going to see (bachelor or betrothed).  This was the reason so many cartoon characters had nephews and nieces instead of sons and daughters.  Giving them offspring would dispel the ambiguity of their love-lives.

The Muppets exist in that halfway realm between cartoons and reality, so while they must adapt with the world changing around them, there is still a status quo that they fall back on.  And what makes it easy for them is the relationships that link them together.  The best cartoon relationships rely on unresolved tension.  The Coyote will never catch the Roadrunner, Charlie Brown will never kick Lucy's football, and Kermit will never love Miss Piggy the way she loves him.

So how did we get in this situation?

Miss Piggy first interacted with Kermit during the first season of The Muppet Show and it was already clear what kind of interactions they would have.  Having deluded herself into thinking she was the biggest star to ever enter show-biz, Piggy felt she was entitled to have everything she wanted, including her handsome boss.  However, she was very prone to violent outbursts when he explicitly showed how little he cared for her.

And thus, their necessary conflict was born.  Kermit would do everything in his power to keep this lovestruck hog away from him.  He was cold, rude, and insulting, and never once considered her feelings.  Fortunately, Piggy was scarily resilient to all of his verbal abuse (possible because she had physical power over him).

With every attractive female guest star that came on the show, Piggy would become insanely jealous.  Yet, when an attractive male guest star came on the show, she would flock to the new beau instantly.  The years of her behavior took their toll on Kermit as he found himself also growing jealous of the male guest stars.  But ultimately he would get a hold of himself because Piggy was unbearable.

Like a psychotic stalker, Piggy got the notion into her head that if only she and Kermit were married, everything will be perfect.  The act of marriage would force him to love her back.  But her approaches were less than tactful.  In one instance, she actually turned to the news media to promote her (fake) marriage to the frog.  Kermit, in turn became the angriest anyone had ever seen him.  This calm, mellow man flew in to a fit of rage and fired her on the spot.  He eventually rehires her of course, but that doesn't make this scene any less frightening.

The fact that Kermit could reach such depths in his emotional range proves just how much Piggy has gotten under his skin.  So, it's now wonder that in her constant ploys to wed him, he eventually gives in and learns to tolerate her.

When there is a video game about the love of your life trying to escape your wedding, that's a dealbreaker.

Below are the three attempts Piggy uses to trick Kermit into a marriage.  The first is just a little skit "Waiting at the Church," which doesn't prove to be very fruitful.  The second is a more elaborate ploy to convince Kermit that everything is just an act for the show (which is canceled at the last second).  And the third is the climax to the third Muppet movie The Muppets Take Manhattan where the lines of fiction and reality are blurred during the wedding of the century.

After this final wedding, Kermit and Piggy's relationship has travelled into that Mickey-Minnie ambiguous territory.  In interviews and public appearances, the duo often dispenses conflicting answers to the issue.  Sometimes they are, and sometimes they are just close friends.  But one thing is certain that Kermit has definitely become a lot kinder towards his admirer.

She makes him happy.

He gets embarrassed at times during the personal displays of affections, but he does not discourage them.  He sticks up for her when she is in trouble and fights for her when he's at the risk of losing her.

As seen in the recent film The Muppets, they have had their struggles.

He has grown to accept her, despite her flaws.  It was a long process, on that went from indifference, to hate, to reluctant tolerance.  But now, it seems evident that something about the two of them together just makes sense.

When we see merchandise with Mickey and Minnie Mouse smiling together, this ellicits no emotional response.  Their relationship is all for show.  They can appear on heart-shaped balloons and greeting cards, but they aren't in love.  If you asked a group of people "How does Minnie feel towards Mickey?" you would receive a variety of answers with little consensus.  There is evidence that supports any answer, depending on the cartoon you choose.

But Kermit and Piggy, they have a history.  Piggy loves Kermit, she always has.  It started as an infatuation, but it grew into something much, much more.  She truly cares for Kermit.  So much so that she is willing to quell her drastic diva tendencies if it means she can keep him proud of her.

And Kermit?  Well, to paraphrase a wise ham, methinks he did protest too much.

It was clearly meant to be.

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