Talk about a metatext!
It seems like every two minutes in The Muppets there was a thoroughly enjoyable self-aware reference and celebrity guest appearance. Gary presents Mary with some lacklustre flowers, which were squashed “probably from the dance number I was doing” in one of the opening scenes of the movie. When Mary laments in song Gary’s brother, Walter, joining them on an anniversary trip to Los Angeles, a gardener conveniently sprays water on the window she’s wistfully looking out of. When Statler and Waldorf introduce the “important plot point” involving oil tycoon Tex Richman drilling for oil under the old Muppet Theatre, Walter tries to get the Muppets back together to save it. When this fails to come to fruition midway through, Mary remarks, “This is going to be a really short movie.” And let’s not forget Camilla and the other chickens’ performance of “Forget You”. You can’t get much more meta than that!
As for the cameos, take Jack Black and his School of Rock cast mate Sarah Silverman, for example. Or Dave Grohl on drums for The Muppets cover band, the Moopets, and the later performance by The Muppets Barbershop Quartet of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. Or Amy Adams as Mary, and her Sunshine Cleaning co-star Emily Blunt in her very Devil Wears Prada-role as Miss Piggy’s secretary. Even Blunt’s real life husband, John Kransinki, makes an appearance. Phew!
But, we’re reminded, celebrities are fair game because they are “not a people”. Makes a poignant comment on our celebrity-saturated society.
That’s the not the only point The Muppets makes. Richman is the personification of the 1% and, like the Moopets, is “a hard, cynical act for a hard, cynical world.”
The film also seeks to promote diversity and acceptance, I thought. Take, for example, the Ebony magazine cover that Kermit fronts, which is traditionally a magazine for African Americans, and how this might represent the Muppets as being beyond racial definition. I also got the feeling that Walter was marketed to be a differently-abled person, which would certainly explain Gary’s reluctance to let Walter go when he is accepted into the Muppet clan and his sheltered existence in Smalltown up til then.
On the first watching of the film, I noticed in particular that Kermit wont tell Miss Piggy he loves her, which is all she asks of him. It reminded me of the Blair and Chuck storyline in Gossip Girl from a few years ago: their back-and-forth love story that depends on Blair needing to hear those words and Chuck never being able to say them. On second watching, I confirmed that, in fact, Kermit never does say “I love you”.
The second time around was more enjoyable. While I originally got to see the film a month before it came out in Australia—and for free!—being in an audience of primarily under 10s wasn’t as good as being in an almost-empty theatre consisting only of Generation X’s who grew up with the Muppets. There was, however, a group of about six teenage fanboys sitting behind me. I was originally annoyed by their chatting in the first ten minutes of the film, but I actually laughed more at them than at the movie when they slid off their seats during the appearances of Neil Patrick Harris and Jim Parsons. But, after watching “Muppet or a Man”, can you really blame them?
*Blanket spoiler alert.
Images via YouTube, Cover Me Songs.