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Discussion in 'Family Worlds' started by Helen, Nov 3, 2004.

  1. Helen

    Helen New Member

    I'm undertaking my Higher School Certificate (the big set of exams at the end of school) in Australia this year, and for my major work for Extension 2 English, I want to do an investigative analysis of how characters in the muppets fulfil certain societal roles - what is the underlying meaning of the muppet characters - what lies under the surface, that we're actually teaching our children. Don't be worried that I plan to overanalyse or be extra-critical of the muppets - I love them to death, and I'll probably make a fairly lighthearted speech from the information I gather. I wondered if anybody could help with some fairly solid suggestions about what they consider the muppet characters to represent - I'll probably do the major ones - kermit, piggy, gonzo, fozzie, rowlf... you get my drift.

    Thanks, Helen
  2. GelflingWaldo

    GelflingWaldo New Member

    Here is a copy of a basic Muppet character breakdown that the writters of Muppets Treasure Island use to fill in the roles in the movie (it was also used in other productions like the upcoming Wizard of Oz film) , when creating the story they wanted to make sure each muppet was feauted in a proper sized role. This might help come up with a list of important characters - but by no means is not a compleate list of all the charaters, just the ones the writters think are imporatant/favorites and don't want to forget about.

    Major Roles
    (Since then Pepe has been added to this section)
    (Rowlf and Scooter were part of this section, but not since Jim and Richard's death; now they are secondary characters)

    Secondary Characters
    Sam Eagle
    Swedish Chef
    The Electric Mayham Band (Dr. Teeth, Janice, Floyd, Zoot, Lips)
    The Muppet Rats
    (Since then Bobo the Bear has been added to this section)

    Other Improtant Minor Characters
    Bean Bunny
    Lew Zeland
    Crazy Harry
    (Since then Johnny Fiama, Sal, and Dr. Phil has been added to this section)
  3. MuppetQuilter

    MuppetQuilter Member

    One of the best ways to begin a social analysis of mass culture characters (be it telelvision, film, books, comics, whatever) is to identify standard societal stereotypes in the characters. For instance, is there a nerd or a geek? Not necessarily just an intelligent character but someone who is socially inept, doesn't dress fashionably-- you know the stereotype of a nerd. Is there a dumb blond? A smart woman who is recognized as intelligent and thus not seen as attractive? Is there a jock who gets all the girls?

    Stereotypes can be used to hurt people, but they also serve an important function in society. They act as a sort of shorthand that allows us to make sense of something quickly. For instance, we all have a stereotype of a classroom and stereotypes of the roles we play in a classroom as a student, teacher or guest. Because of those stereotypes students are able to enter a new class on the first day and sit in the appropriate seats-- they don't sit at the teacher's desk. So don't be afraid of stereotypes and don't dismiss them as always bad. You can use them to begin a discussion.

    With the Muppets, I'd start with Kermit as the leader. He's the down to earth guy who holds the group together. What does that tell us about Kermit? What does he tell us about groups? His group is often pulling apart at the seams and all but out of control-- why? What does that say about the qualities necessary to be a good leader versus the qualities necessary to be a good, likeable person?

    Gonzo is the outsider. Whether you choose to define him as an alien or a whatever, he is clearly different from the others. There are lots of monsters, pigs, frogs etc. There is only one Gonzo. What does it mean to be different from everyone around you? What does it mean for the outsider to find acceptance in a group? What does that tell minority kids as they watch? What do we learn from the occasional negative responses to some of Gonzo's more bizarre behaviors? What does Gonzo teach us about tolerance and acceptance and the limits there of?

    What does Fozzie have to say about a positive attitude and never giving up on a dream? What does he teach us about loyalty? What does it say that the most loyal and eager member of the group is also portrayed as, well, not the brightest bulb in the socket?

    What does it say about women in society that there is only one main character who is female? What does her obsession with looks, clothes and herself teach girls? What does her ability to stand up to the males say? What of the fact that she stands up for herself with a karate chop?

    Just take each character and think about them. How would you describe that character? What are their most important traits? What are they most often seen doing? How are they connected to the other characters? Are they there because of family connections? What do they bring to the group (what is their function in Muppet society)? Try writing out how you would describe each character to someone who has never heard of the Muppets. What is the significance of them being puppets? What can they say about society that cannot be said, or cannot be said as easily with human actors? Why? Answer those questions for yourself and you'll have plenty to go on!

    Hope that helps. :)
  4. Helen

    Helen New Member

    MuppetQuilter, you're my new hero! What a way to kickstart me! Thanks so much for your time - that must have taken a while. You have no idea how helpful you've been. You're a champ. Ta.
    Also, thanks to GelflingWaldo - that should help me in organising/structuring my report and choosing characters.
    Geez I'm glad I found this site!

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