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Disney’s Muppet-Sized Risk

According to their Facebook pages, Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog have announced they are splitting up.

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 04: Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy pose during the Brooklyn Museum's Sackler Center First Awards at Brooklyn Museum on June 4, 2015 in New York City.  (Photo by Desiree Navarro/WireImage)

NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 04: Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy pose during the Brooklyn Museum’s Sackler Center First Awards at Brooklyn Museum on June 4, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Desiree Navarro/WireImage)

And they appeared at a news conference today with executive producers of the show to talk about the split.  Yes, alleged storylines of their new show this fall on ABC (spoiler alert) hint at Kermit having a new girlfriend in early episodes.

But don’t get too down, everyone.  Just in case you missed it, the statements included an obvious plug for the new ABC show.  And executive producers appeared with them today…an obvious sign that we should take this entire thing with a grain of salt, and as merely a publicity stunt.  In other words, we all know Kermit and Piggy aren’t splitting up.  Their awkward yet caring relationship is their whole bit, and has been for decades.  I’d make a rather large bet that this won’t end anytime soon.

So what we’re left with here is this: the “brains” behind The Muppets decided to take one of the more odd yet recognized and enduring symbols of love and partnership in popular culture and play around with splitting them up…all in the name of publicity and a key plot line for the show.

Let me say up front that this has an opportunity to end well.  Kermit and Piggy could spotlight all the complexities involved with struggling relationships, and help a whole new generation of adults and kids work through their problems and fix what ails them.  It could happen.  After all, divorce is just as big a part of society today as marriage is, and it can’t be shut away in the closet and never addressed by mainstream popular culture.

But I see this whole premise as incredibly risky for The Muppets and Disney. Call me oversensitive to this sort of thing, and you might be right. But this is fraught with peril, to borrow a phrase.

From a brand standpoint, this whole concept flies in the face of everything Disney and The Muppets have always meant and stood for.  They’re all about family-friendly entertainment.  Magical experiences.  Love and happiness.  Good humor.  The value of relationships, family and friends to a happy and healthy life.  Nothing could be more contradictory to the brand of Disney and the whole idea of Disney World, the Muppet Show, etc. than a divorce featuring a Smithsonian-inducted frog puppet and his equally famous and influential spouse.

From a personal/human standpoint, I’m inclined to look away for several reasons.  Divorce ruins people, and families.  It breaks up homes.  It’s an incredibly traumatic experience for anyone involved.  It’s no laughing matter, plain and simple.  Again, this show could go the way of Mrs. Doubtfire and deftly handle this delicate subject matter in a tactful way.  Or it could blow up entirely, and serve as yet another example to people everywhere of what not to do and how not to treat people within the context of relationships.  Such an outcome would be a black mark against the brands of Disney and The Muppets, and put the old school forever at odds with the new school.

For the first time in my life, I find myself questioning the whole concept of The Muppets.  I’m not sure how it will turn out, but count me among those hoping this won’t be another endorsement of divorce in popular culture.  Such a series of events could prove to be an epic fail on many levels.

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