Muppets Word of the Day: “Woke”
Just when you think the political mishmash of wokeness, identity politics, cancel culture and political correctness cannot get more foolish – and even more dangerous – we get yet another example of how extreme these oppressive authoritarian concepts can get.
In case you missed the story, the folks at Disney have added a warning to the viewing of the once highly-touted kids’ educational program “The Muppets,” which has appeared for generations on our government-run public broadcasting system. Mickey Mouse acquired Kermit the Frog in 2004.
Movies and television shows tend to reflect the zeitgeist of the times. In the early 1900s, the new movie industry was producing films with decidedly racist imagery of Negro Americans. This culminated in the Ku Klux Klan glorification movie, “Birth of a Nation.” The 1930s version of “Show Boat” billed a singer as a “Coon Shouter” – a white person who sings in the “Negro tradition.” Incidentally, the song in the movie was “Can’t Help Lovin’ that Man of Mine” by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein.
It is not always about race.
Early movies depicted the wilder times of the Roaring 20’s – semi-nudity, drug use and all forms of naughty sexual behavior. Maureen O’Sullivan swam noticeably naked with Tarzan in the 1932 episode – in case you were wondering. And that was a children’s movie. All that was suppressed by moral movie codes that limited the length of a kiss, no two people in the same bed, no divorces, and bad guys always lose in the end. The Gay Divorcee, starring Fred Astaire, managed to get released just before the imposition of the code in 1934. And the word “gay” was a generation from taking on its contemporary meaning.
We often look back on historic times with amazement and shock – maybe even disgust. But the current wave of wokeness has something in common with the movie codes of those days of yore. They are a form of censorship. They both are an impediment to free speech. Basically, they deny reality.
Today’s political correctness and identity politics is far worse than some ineffective movie code.
It has deeply divided American society into competing – and even warring – tribes. The wokeness of today breeds an oversensitivity that translates into oppressive political and cultural conduct. It subjugates societal action to the level of the most easily offended – with the offensives too often the result of exaggerated interpretation or hyper-sensitivity.
Disney apparently has reviewed the past episodes of “The Muppets” with a unfocused eye of wokeness and political correctness. Anything that remotely could offend – or be agonizingly interpreted as offensive – in The Muppets, Disney must now address with warning or banishment.
It never occurred to me– or affected my positive view – that the Disney’s Siamese cats were a slur on Asian people. Perhaps in a fit of wokeness, we should rename the breed of cats – along with German Shepherds, French Poodles and Russian Wolfhounds.
It never occurred to me in the past. But now that I am woke up, I take great offense to the cranky characterization of Statler and Waldorf – those two complaining old white men in the balcony. And just think. I once thought they were funny.
According to Disney, the past programs include “negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures. These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now.”
At this point, Disney does not find the content so offensive that they will edit or trashcan any episodes. “Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together,” they say. At least that is not as base as erasing history – something the cancel culture pursues with a vengeance.
Is Miss Piggy a problem because the character is a female pig? Is the Count’s accent an insult to eastern Europeans? And is the garbage can-dwelling Oscar the Grouch a slander against homeless folks?
If we continue down this slippery slope of hyper-aggrievance, we may find that the only culturally acceptable entertainment from Disney will be the perpetual playing of that utterly annoying “It’s a Small World” theme song. That is unless there is protest from the dwarf community.
For generations, Disney has been the happy escape from the realities and burdens of the world through the doors of the “magic kingdom.”
Disney theme parks have been credibly advertised as the happiest places on earth. But no longer. It is just another venue to engage in intramural hostility. And to remind us that one person’s mere existence can be an offense to another.
The Disney warning on The Muppets is not just foolish. The hypersensitivity being inbred into our citizenry is needlessly undermining the civil comity of the entire country. We are becoming a nation of open wounds.
So, there ‘tis.