1 The Muppet Mindset: 1000th Post - Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: Miss Piggy

Jul 11, 2012

1000th Post - Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: Miss Piggy

Ryan Dosier - Greetings Muppet fans! Today is another milestone day for us here at The Muppet Mindset. After less than three years, today we post our 1000th post! Our first post happened way back in August of 2009 and our goal has been daily posts of Muppety goodness ever since. Yes, we've missed a few days here and there (mostly because yours truly, Ryan Dosier, gets exhausted), but now that we come to 1,000 it seems like it all worked out, don't you think? I have way too many people to thank about us having gotten here... but that would distract from this article that I so painstakingly wrote just for you folks! So instead, I'll save the thanks for the three year anniversary next month. After 1,000 posts, I realized that I had to honor only one Muppet with this momentous occasion--and not just because she'd hurt me if I didn't. So now, please enjoy The Muppet Mindset's 1000th Post!

Performed by...
Frank Oz (1976-2002)
Eric Jacobson (2001-present) 

First appearance...
Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass (1974)

Most recent appearance...
Muppets Most Wanted (2014)

Best known role...
Diva pig; lover of Kermit; self-proclaimed star of The Muppet Show; international star of stage and screen; karate expert; fashionista; faux-French speaker; purple glove enthusiast; First Mate of the S.S. Swinetrek; nurse at Veterinarian's Hospital; singer; dancer; model; Emily Cratchit; Benjamina Gunn; news anchor; Vogue plus-size editor; force of nature

Relationship status...
Married. Definitely married.

Miss Piggy is the biggest porcine star to ever grace the screens of television or film. She is also very good at paying/threatening people to maintain her image. First rising to prominence as the breakout star of The Muppet Show, Miss Piggy went on to star in seven feature films, countless television specials, and so much more. She has become a fashion icon, karate master, role model, and the perfect representation of diva class that we as a people could ever ask for. (And, again, she's really threatening.)

The television debut of Miss Piggy occurred on the 1974 television special Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, where her then-agent Hoggie Marsh convinces Herb Alpert to work with the upcoming star. Miss Piggy displayed some of her trademark traits almost immediately, such as flirting with men and fighting for the spotlight. In her first television appearance she was assisted by a young man named Jerry Nelson for the only time. Miss Piggy made a few other appearances in television specials in 1975 before moving on to her starring role on The Muppet Show.

When 1976 rolled in and The Muppet Show hit the airwaves, Miss Piggy saw an opening, and took her place among the stars. In the very first episode, Miss Piggy was cast as nothing more than a simple chorus girl. While her boss and host (and pretty good looker), Kermit the Frog, conducted the Muppet Glee Club in their performance of "Temptation," Miss Piggy let her talent guide her forth, making quite the impression on both Kermit and the audience. Her assertive ways in this number would define and carry Miss Piggy for the rest of her career.

Miss Piggy continued to define herself during the first season of The Muppet Show. Her world-famous karate chop was brought to the forefront (and Kermit's actual front) in the second episode after Kermit's seductive dance with Lydia the Tattooed Lady. Her manipulation of Kermit's affections began in the episode guest starring Avery Schreiber, when she tried to convince the frog that she was really taken by Sir Avery of Macho. All of these traits combined to make Miss Piggy the lead female (and, in her opinion, the lead altogether) on the show.

As Piggy's star rose, she used her clout to adjust her image. Throughout every season of The Muppet Show, Miss Piggy's look changed. Not only her style, but her physical appearance as well. Piggy is not shy about discussing her "look alterations" over the years, and feels that perfecting her look is as important as perfecting her artistic image. Miss Piggy is never one to stay stagnant, so by constantly updating her look she always gives her audience something new to talk about.

Throughout the five season run of The Muppet Show, Miss Piggy schmoozed, flirted, competed, and performed with some of the biggest names in show business. She performed sultry songs with Elton John and Rudolf Nureyev; she combated with such beauties as Linda Ronstadt and Raquel Welch; and flirted with Luke Skywalker and, of course, Christopher Reeve.

Miss Piggy also starred in two of the most popular recurring sketches on The Muppet Show (probably the most popular because of her presence): Veterinarian's Hospital and Pigs in Space, playing Nurse Piggy and First Mate Piggy, respectively. In the sketches, Piggy's limits were tested by her goofy co-stars, Rowlf the Dog and Janice in Vet's Hospital, and Link Hogthrob and Julius Strangepork in Pigs in Space. The rampant puns and the even more rampant idiocy of these sketches helped Piggy become a star while pushing her buttons on
every level.

After her incredible success becoming a television star, it was only natural that Miss Piggy move onto feature film work. She first stole the silver screen in 1979 with The Muppet Movie (the original title, The Miss Piggy Movie, was changed due to its length). In the film, we first got a look at Miss Piggy's humble beginnings as the winner of the Bogen County Fair beauty pageant. It was after her career-making win that she was taken aback by Kermit the Frog. After singing "Never Before, Never Again," Piggy joined Kermit and his crew on their journey to Hollywood, where she finally became the star she knew she was destined to be.

Miss Piggy's film work carried on even after The Muppet Show ended on a high note, with starring roles in both The Great Muppet Caper and The Muppets Take Manhattan. In the former, Miss Piggy plays assistant-turned-model to fashion designer extraordinaire Lady Holiday. Eventually she meets Kermit, who immediately falls for her while trying to solve a jewel heist. Later, the love triangle expands as Lady Holiday's brother, Nicky, becomes enamored by Piggy as well. After a stint as a model, in "the cooler," and a fantastic motorcycle stunt, Piggy helps Kermit solve the caper. In The Muppets Take Manhattan, Miss Piggy was a star in a college musical alongside Kermit and the other Muppets and joined them when they journeyed to New York City. After they split up, Piggy stays in the city to spy on Kermit. She is eventually outed, helps restore Kermit's memory, and stars in the Broadway production of "Manhattan Melodies." It is during the play that a wedding between Kermit and Miss Piggy occurs. (And it was totally, definitely, without a doubt real, legal, and proven. No matter what the frog says.)

After and during her time in three hugely successful films, Miss Piggy returned to her television roots in specials such as The Muppets Go Hollywood (1979), The Muppets Go to the Movies (1981), Rocky Mountain Holiday (1983), A Muppet Family Christmas (1987), and, most importantly, The Fantastic Miss Piggy Show (1982). In her titular special, Miss Piggy got the opportunity to host her own show with special guests George Hamilton and John Ritter. After many highs and a few lows, Miss Piggy gets into an a fight with the network vice president about whether the show was a special or a pilot for a series and storms off saying, "I'm too delicate for show business!"

In 1989 she was asked by a business friend, Jim Henson, to return to television in his show The Jim Henson Hour. Because he refused to change the name to The Miss Piggy Hour, she opted to only appear a few times throughout the run of the series, most notably in the special episode "Miss Piggy's Hollywood." A few years later, in 1996, she appeared multiple times as a very special guest star on the series Muppets Tonight.

Once the 1990s were in swing, Miss Piggy knew that it was time for a new audience to appreciate her talents on the big screen. She returned to the cinema in 1992 for The Muppet Christmas Carol where she played the loving and fashionable wife of Bob Cratchit, Emily. After demanding a bigger role, she was handed one in Muppet Treasure Island in 1996, where she was cast as Benjamina Gunn, the leader of the group of crazed island boars. In the film, she was revealed to be quite the lover, having a relationship with Captain Smollett (Kermit), Long John Silver, and the notorious Captain Flynn. In 1999, she returned to playing the role she made famous: herself. In Muppets From Space, Miss Piggy plays an untalented, not at all accurate, version of herself as a last-minute news anchor. She joins Kermit and company to help liberate Gonzo and Rizzo and meet Gonzo's alien family (all the while keeping her hair looking great).

In the 2000s, Miss Piggy appeared in numerous commercials for various products. In 2002 she starred in the made-for-TV movie It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie on NBC, once again playing herself and a version of herself as if she had never met Kermit. In 2005, she played four different characters in The Muppets Wizard of Oz TV movie on ABC, playing all four of the witches of Oz. Her most recent television film appearance was in 2008, again on NBC, in A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa, where she over-reacted and stormed off to the Caribbean... only to return for him later making it the "Best Christmas Yet."

After even more appearances on television talk shows and reality shows, internet videos, and more, Miss Piggy was brought back to feature films in 2011's The Muppets, once again playing herself, this time as a highly successful editor in the plus-size division of Vogue Magazine. In the film, Miss Piggy made a record twelve costume changes, sang "Me Party" with Amy Adams, and a beautiful rendition of "Rainbow Connection" alongside her love, Kermit the Frog.

Besides her acting roles, Miss Piggy has appeared on countless pieces of merchandise, innumerable magazine covers and spreads, books, clothing, and even fronted her own line of perfume titled Moi. The only other Muppet who has been seen more or appeared more often than Miss Piggy is Kermit--which she is probably actively working to correct. But despite this, Miss Piggy remains an idol and an inspiration to women and girls and everyone everywhere.

Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog are madly, unflinchingly, and faithfully in love and very happily married. GOT THAT?! (Again, Miss Piggy pays very well.)

If Jim Henson and Kermit the Frog are the closest and most similar Muppeteer/character combination, then Miss Piggy was most effected and developed by her original performer, Frank Oz. In the 1980s, Frank Oz was always eager to discuss Miss Piggy's backstory and character in interviews, saying, "In one rehearsal, I was working as Miss Piggy with Jim, who was doing Kermit, and the script called for her to slap him. Instead of a slap, I gave him a funny karate hit. Suddenly, that hit crystallized her character for me -- the coyness hiding the aggression; the conflict of that love with her desire for a career; her hunger for a glamour image; her tremendous out-and-out ego -- all those things are great fun to explore in a character."

Frank had also developed an elaborate backstory for Miss Piggy in his mind in order to better understand her. A 1979 newspaper interview stated that, "According to Oz, Miss Piggy's father chased after other sows, and her mother had so many piglets she never found time to develop her mind. 'I'll die before I live like that!' Miss Piggy screamed, and ran away to the city. Life was hard at first. People got all the jobs; pigs had to take what was left. To keep going, Miss Piggy walked a sandwich board for a barbecue stand. Desperate, she took a stage name, Laverne, and entered a beauty contest. She won and got her big break: a bacon commercial. This led to a season as mascot for a local TV sportscast called Pigskin Parade--and then on to The Muppet Show."

Clearly Frank Oz created a character from nothing and made her into one of the most popular Muppets of all time--let alone one of the few females. All of this goes without mentioning how incredible and near-perfect Frank's performances with the pig were. Frank knew Miss Piggy inside and out and it showed in nearly every performance. When he threw his entire self into being Miss Piggy during a performance, it was clear, and it was some of the best character puppetry ever.

When Frank Oz formally retired from performing Muppet characters in 2001/2002, there was one man who soon became the clear choice to be his replacement: Eric Jacobson. Eric first performed Miss Piggy in 2001 during The Muppet Show Live at the MuppetFest fan convention. His performance was so convincing that hardly anyone in attendance could recognize the change in performers. From that point on, it was clear that Eric Jacobson would be the one to carry the torch, willingly passed on by Frank Oz.

Since then, Eric has performed Miss Piggy as well as anyone could have expected. He has honored the performances of Frank Oz by making Piggy equal parts beautiful, funny, and furious. Eric's landmark performance as Miss Piggy came with The Muppets in 2011, where he was finally given the chance to stretch and emote with the character. Because of Eric performing Miss Piggy after Frank Oz retired, the Muppets were able to survive and now thrive thanks to their diva pig in the spotlight. Eric continues to perform Miss Piggy to this day, and most likely will for the foreseeable future. And thank goodness for that.

Miss Piggy is truly an institution. What other Muppet, besides Kermit, can that honestly be said about? She has become defined as more than just a pig, more than just a woman, more than just an actress/singer/model... she is Miss Piggy, nothing plain and simple about it. You would be hard pressed to find another character that is as well-defined, clearly motivated, and hilarious as Miss Piggy. Yes, she may be rough around the edges (and right up on the edges), sometimes untalented, sometimes clumsy, sometimes gruff, but Piggy always knows what/who she wants and will do anything to get it.

This is why the Muppets need her. Miss Piggy's drive and passion and never-back-down attitude have saved the Muppets on multiple occasions (see The Great Muppet Caper, The Muppets Take Manhattan, The Muppets, etc.). It is also clear that her level of talent is something absolutely necessary for the Muppets to succeed. They won't put on a show without her in It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie or The Muppets--even though they know it just means more trouble and a bigger headache when she's around. But, above all, the Muppets need Miss Piggy because Kermit needs Miss Piggy. Though she karate chops him, stalks him, gives him kissy-kissy, and hounds him with sometimes-unwanted romantic advances, Kermit does need her. She keeps him motivated and reminds him why he drives to succeed.

Miss Piggy may be a diva, she may be demanding, she may be difficult to work with, brash, brutal, and vengeful, but she is a Muppet, and Muppets always have a sweet side. Miss Piggy puts on her diva appearance to hide her inner pain, but she shows her sweetness to reveal her inner caring. Deep down Piggy cares about the Muppets and would--and could--do anything for them, and that's why they need her.

Plus, she's more talented and better looking than the lot of them--duh!

The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, muppetmindset@gmail.com

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