Piggy and Kermit were a huge part of my childhood. From "Muppet Babies" to the Muppet Show, they were one of televisions big couples that I recall from the 80s alongside Westley and Buttercup, Lloyed Dobler and Diane Court, Jennifer Parker and Marty McFly, Samantha Baker and Jake Ryan. They way they struggled, bantered, and ultimately came back to each other over and over felt reassuring as a child, like I would one day meet a love of my life that nothing could break apart.
As an adult, though, I have a different framing of the examples of romance I was brought up with. It’s hard to think of many 80s power couples that didn’t end up being abusive in some way, now that I think about it, and the Kermit/Piggy dynamic is no exception. While I initially felt surprised by the announcement of their breakup, on a personal level it makes complete sense. I know this sounds like a lot of attention being paid to a fictional couple’s breakup (which is kind of obviously for marketing), but bear with me for a minute.
When I was growing up I saw Piggy dating Kermit as a validation that fat femmes could be loved, were worth being in a relationship with, even. Sure, he was commitmentphobic, but I figured that was true of many men and not particularly notable.
Until I began to really watch their dynamic, and hear how they spoke to each other. And I began to realize how close to the bone it all was. How Piggy was always chasing him, begging him for acknowledgement or stability, how he kept her at arm's length. How we would discover in bits and pieces that they had a relationship, but on camera, Kermit would say things like, "Miss Piggy and I have a professional acting relationship. I act like a professional, and she acts like we're having a relationship." He was constantly joking about how he couldn't trust her, invalidating their relationship in public while being sweet in private, and even when he did say they were dating, he would typically snarkily compare it to abusive behaviour.
We, the audience, are taught to see Piggy as demanding, clingy, and hysterical, but I realized that I have acted just like her when I've been in a relationship with someone who has thin privilege.
Her projected narcissism makes a lot of sense to me, for a start, as it's a defense I put up too. When you're a fat femme with a thin person, society constantly tells you that you don't deserve them. You deal with your lover getting pitying looks in restaurants, people flirting with your partner like you don't exist, advice in grocery stores about losing weight when the two of you are just shopping for dinner. I have literally had people ask me how someone like me ended up with someone like him, or her- a question I have never gotten when I've dated fellow fatties. It got to a point where I lost any attraction to fit people for a while, because however I felt about them, it wasn't worth the constant harassment and judgment. I understood why Piggy would talk herself up so much, because I did it too as a rebellion against the idea that I wasn't sexy and wasn't deserving of adoration.
Or there was the way they would escalate. I was watching this clip where Piggy says that she's feeling uncomfortable going to the swamp with Kermit (I mean to be fair, he's often naked, and she's high femme). He initially says it's ok, they don't have to go to the swamp, where his roots are, and then starts yelling at her about going to her roots... the sty. "Remember that?" he says pointedly, while Piggy looks more and more embarrassed and upset. The skit ends, as many of them do, with Piggy hitting Kermit- also not really a healthy dynamic. It speaks to me as someone who has had partners lambast me for my history as a sex worker or being dirt poor when they want to manipulate me into giving them their way.
The thing that really hit my heart though was how often Kermit would say that he didn't want Piggy at all or make fun of her weight. "Bib and napkin, knife and fork is the only way that I'll touch pork!" he sings in Pig Calypso. Or there's his Bruce Springsteen cover, which plays off of a "oh, Miss Piggy is SO FAT" joke. There's "I Won't Dance", which is a skit about Piggy wanting them to dance together (a show of intimacy and presence in the relationship) and Kermit refuses. But if Piggy dances with someone else, he's jealous (and frankly I think the fact that he's ultimately Piggy's boss creates a super shitty power dynamic). And he's heartbroken, apparently, when Piggy leaves him in The Muppet Movie, singing "I Hope That Somethin' Better Comes Along". So why can't he be loving to her in public? Why does he joke so much about their relationship, putting her down? It was very familiar, as someone who has been a secret lover for people (mostly men) who wanted to fuck me in private but didn't want to admit to it in public. No one wanted to bring the fat girl to meet their family or their friends, because while being fat gets a lot of bullying, so does desiring or loving someone fat. It took me a long time to realize I deserved a partner who was proud of me, and wanted to be by my side.
Kermit's emotional abuse and Piggy's physical abuse might seem funny if you don't look below the surface, and yes, I know I over analyze everything and I'm no fun and I get it. But media, even (if not especially) comic media teaches us things about dynamics. It teaches us about what sort of humour is ok and what isn't, who can be made fun of without penalty. Piggy and Kermit's dynamic is one where the fat femme is constantly chasing a man who puts her down, uses his power as her boss to manipulate her, refuses to acknowledge her as a lover, and makes fun of her weight. She shouldn't settle for his asshole behaviour, and neither should I, or anyone.
In the end, Piggy left Kermit. This is important. I know it seems silly but children do pick up on messages about what sort of treatment is romantic or ok. This didn't end up being a case of "he's not that into you", but of Piggy finally putting her hoof down and saying enough to being yanked around. Even when Kermit talked about the breakup, he couldn't resist jabbing at her one more time- "we can be professionals. Well, one of us can.... me", he says, while proving the exact opposite.
Apparently he's dating another pig, Denise.
Let's hope he actually acknowledges her in public.
"Well Kermit WAS always trying to manipulate Miss Piggy with his meekness and use his thin privilege to stay emotionally distant.. so not surprised," said fat activist and #losehatenotweight goddess Virgie Tovar on a comment on her Facebook, and at the end of the day, I'm not surprised either. If anything I think this is a positive step for fat femmes, to realize we can do better than partners like that, that we have value and deserve to have that value honoured, not torn apart for some cheap laughs.