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Coming Out Muppet: The Amazing, Gay Subtext of the New Muppets Movie

How double-consciousness comes to life in the beloved kid's movie.

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Watching this, I was stunned. Who thought that American children would be exposed to W.E.B. Du Bois’s concept of Double-Consciousness, in which one is “always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.”

The film is a culmination of Generation X nostalgia. Having seen "The Muppet Show" as children, Gen X’ers carried them into adolescence and adulthood. Each step brought adult confusion and fear and sexuality to the muppets. Years ago in a Calvin Klein ad, we saw Kermit smirking coyly in underwear. On the internet are images of him vomiting into a toilet after binge drinking or doing heroin or having sex or standing gangsta style with a machine gun.

In the acclaimed Broadway show Avenue Q, muppets re-enact the disillusionment of adult life, the terror of failure, questioned sexuality and enduring social discrimination. The latest adult use of childhood nostalgia was the Occupy Sesame Street video on YouTube. Characters from the show are fused with scenes from Occupy Wall Street. Elmo is kneed down by cops. Bert walked away in handcuffs. The Count is crying from pepper-spray.

Hilarious as those scenes are, they rely on a deep pessimism. The Muppets reverses that dynamic of destroying innocence. The film’s message is that difference is neither a mark of shame nor a thing to be feared. It can be a source of power. When they run out of acts during the fundraiser, Walter takes the stage and whistles an operatic symphony. The audience throws roses at him—because the stage is as far from the closet as anyone can be.

 
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