Chris Lynch: Muppets being offended by Muppets

Chris Lynch is the host of Canterbury Mornings on Newstalk ZB, 9am - midday. Photo: File
Chris Lynch is the host of Canterbury Mornings on Newstalk ZB, 9am - midday. Photo: File
OPINION: My favourite television show of all-time, The Muppet Show, has joined a growing list of TV programmes slapped with a "content warning" by Disney on its streaming service.

The Muppets have long been considered good-natured family-friendly creatures, but in an age where paranoid corporations are petrified at the possibility of being publicly denigrated by the perpetually outraged, Disney has produced a disclaimer, in part saying: "This programme includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures. These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now."

It sounds noble, but it's like saying, we've bought the Muppet franchise so we can profit off the brand, we don't like all of the content, but we'll still sell it anyway.

Muppet creator Jim Henson once said: "When I was young, my ambition was to be one of the people who made a difference in this world. My hope is to leave the world a little better for having been there." Henson is rolling in his grave at the thought that his creations could be deemed offensive.

In a statement by Disney, the company said: "As part of our ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion, we are in the process of reviewing our library and adding advisories to content that includes negative depictions or mistreatment of people or cultures."

The Muppet Show has joined a growing list of TV programmes slapped with a 'content warning'....
The Muppet Show has joined a growing list of TV programmes slapped with a 'content warning'. Photo: Supplied
Unsurprisingly, advisors have been hired to sift through its back catalogue. There's money to be made in finding fault. It reinforces a mindset where today's generation will forever consider all past generations evil and themselves the pinnacle of goodness.

Before the Muppet Show, Henson was best known as one of the co-creators of Sesame Street.

Along with teaching the basics of letters and numbers, the show was the first of its kind to showcase a realistic multicultural urban neighbourhood.

It was another favourite show of mine as a pre-schooler but, no doubt, there'll be someone getting well paid to find fault in a programme that's delighted millions and millions of children.

The Muppet brand of craziness and goodwill has evolved over time and provided a remarkable function in global communities to help children better understand the world around them. Sounds a bit wishy-washy, but it's true.

We're living in strange times, in a world where being offended provides news outlets with shallow content.

As a fan of the Muppets, let me remind you of their force for good.

In 2002, the producers of Sesame Street introduced an HIV-positive character to its South African co-production. The character was welcomed by health carers working in areas where AIDS was an epidemic.

In 2017, the New York-based show introduced a new Muppet called Julia, who is autistic. Positive headlines, but no outrage.

As for poor old Kermit the frog. He was the constant victim of domestic violence, always on the receiving end of Miss Piggy's Karate chop.

It won't be long before Disney adds a "violence content warning" to its disclaimer - while profiting off the Muppet brand, of course.

  • Chris Lynch is the host of Canterbury Mornings on Newstalk ZB, 9am-noon

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