This article is part of Shipwreck, a recurring series about disastrous fictional relationships.
My children and I were watching Muppets Now, the new Muppets series on Disney+, and after a tense scene between Miss Piggy and Kermit, my daughter asked, “Aren’t they married?”
“Well, they broke up,” I said. In the scene, Piggy had interrupted an interview Kermit was conducting with RuPaul, and Kermit was beside himself, and Piggy was haughty, and after she left RuPaul said, “She’s so wonderful!” And a disgruntled Kermit said, “She’s something else.”
“Why’d they break up?” my daughter said. “Aren’t they, like, the couple on the Muppets?” And so because parents sometimes have to tell difficult truths to their children, I explained that in fact Piggy and Kermit are not relationship goals. They’re a terrible couple, they always have been, and Muppets Now is the perfect opportunity for the Muppet brain trust to stop beating that particular drum.
Leave aside their anatomical incompatibility, which is oft-joked-about but in the context of felt puppets basically irrelevant. They’re totally mismatched in every other way. She’s a globe-trotting, bestselling author; he’s a homebody who just spends his time sitting around the swamp in the mud. She’s a fashion plate who loves the finer things in life; he’s a nudist. She’s a domestic abuser, and he’s her boss, for crying out loud. What a mess!
Most importantly, they’re emotionally incompatible. One is a closed-off, neurotic commitment-phobe, the other a clingy, psychopathic narcissist. Their relationship began with a very sweet first date—in which not even a rude waiter could dampen their enthusiasm for each other or for sparkling muscatel—but only went downhill from there.
For years they’ve toggled back and forth between moments of high romance and high drama—squabbling, hurting each other’s feelings, karate-chopping/being karate-chopped. That drama is reflected in their decades of stormy, on-again, off-again status. It’s a pairing that has included several fake nuptials, an ambush wedding in which Piggy replaced Gonzo with an actual minister, and multiple interviews in which Piggy insists they’re married and Kermit denies it. Piggy has publicly dumped Kermit on the Today show and on Twitter. They’ve revealed their rebound relationships in People magazine, on Liam Hemsworth’s Instagram, and on the red carpet at the VMAs. Honestly, it’s embarrassing.
According to three relationship counselors interviewed earlier this year by Mel magazine, the pairing has long been in crisis. “If there’s that level of conflict, they need professional help,” said clinical psychologist Farrah Hauke. “They’d need to work with a couples counselor and do their individual work to identify their role in the conflict, as well as their partner’s role in the conflict.” This is, of course, ludicrous, as Miss Piggy would simply karate-chop the therapist.
Recently, it seemed the minders of the Muppets might realize that the central romance of the franchise no longer had currency. On the short-lived ABC series The Muppets, Kermit got a new girlfriend, also a pig, named Denise—the subject of the memorable Jezebel headline “I’m Sorry, But Who the Fuck Does This Homewrecking Pig Think She Is?” (Byline: “Definitely Not Miss Piggy.”) But by series’ end, the characters once again fell into familiar patterns, as the finale focused entirely on the will-they-or-won’t-they question—including other Muppets writing PRO and CON lists on a whiteboard as Kermit tried to decide. The episode ended on a cliffhanger of sorts, with Kermit professing his love for Piggy in a last-ditch romantic gesture. The first episode of Muppets Now does not seem to pay off that cliffhanger, as they remain cordial but distant.
The Muppeteers’ obsession with Piggy and Kermit has come at the expense of nearly every other character. Sure, Fozzie briefly dated a human. But we know so little about, say, the long-term love of Gonzo and Camilla the chicken, or Janice’s romances with various members of Electric Mayhem, or what is actually the deal with Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker. Share the spotlight a little, you attention hog (and attention frog)!
Call it what you will: Friggy, Permit, Hogwarts. Where it was once entertaining to watch a lovesick pig beat the crap out of a diffident frog, now it’s simply exhausting. It is well past time to retire this ship.