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The Politics of a Muppet Villain

December 6, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ll admit, when I noticed that the villain in the new Muppet Movie was a “rich oil man”, and eyebrow was raised.  After all, I’ve seen one-sided political stances placed in movies and children’s programs before and I feared this was another example of it.

Evidently Fox News felt the same way, spending a whole segment on the topic.  As I watched this debate unfold, I didn’t hear a great point come from either side. 

First, it struck me that the three people upset over Tex Richman had not even seen the movie.   They didn’t even mention that it’s Chris Cooper who plays him.  At one point, it’s as if they think Tex is a Muppet.

I think it’s important to see the movie.  After I saw it, I felt that Tex Richman isn’t nearly the political message he could’ve been.  You’re not beaten over the head with the fact that he’s an oil man.  More than anything, his sole reason for being there is to give the Muppets a reason for getting back together.

And yes, Tex “Rich man” uses real words to create a name.  However, I would argue that this is less about politics and more about Muppet name generation.  After all, there once was a time that there just so happened to be a guy that owns frog leg restaurants who was named Doc Hopper.

On the other side of the argument, I felt uneasy that she found it necessary to spend time promoting why politics in kids movies is okay and why her point of view should be heard in them.  She would have been better off making the points that I am making now.

How about we meet in the middle?  Yes, politics rears its ugly head in the wrong places in movies in TV shows.  However, are we sometimes guilty of just looking for it and using it as a means to cry foul?

I agree there’s nothing wrong with being rich and there’s nothing wrong with being in the oil industry.  The thing we have to remember is there are bad people in every walk of life…rich, poor, big business, small business, etc.

I think it’s a stretch in this case to think that a child will walk away from The Muppets with a generalization that all rich oil people are bad.

Chris Cooper as Tex Richman

They’re going to get that misleading message in other places.  You’d have an easier time trying to convince me that after watching a murder mystery in which a nurse kills her patients by injecting poison in their bodies and claim the message is that nurses can’t be trusted.

There are plenty of films where it is 100 percent clear that a film is either covertly or abrasively trying to make a statement.  More often than not, people know it and react to it on a grander scale…not in a seven minute debate on one network.

I remember a screenwriting mentor tell me one time, “Don’t write a movie for the sake of sending a message”.  I also had a movie critic friend who would always call out a film when it beat you over the head with a message, but was more forgiving when a message was subtle enough where the audience could come to their own conclusions.

My guess is most right-leaning and left-leaning parents who took their kids to see the movie, left thinking one thing….

It was an entertaining film.

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