Who doesn’t love the Muppets? (Satan aside.)
The iconic puppets created by by Jim Henson in 1954 have developed a popularity so expansive, Muppet characters have been treated as celebrities in their own right. The Muppets have presented at the Academy Awards and Emmy Awards; made cameo appearances in such feature films as Rocky III, An American Werewolf in London and Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium; and have been interviewed on the news magazine 60 Minutes.
Muppets are, quite literally, the rock stars of the Sesame Street generation – and have become cultural icons promoting kindness, knowledge and community.
That is… until now.
Enter the new Disney movie released last month: “The Muppets Movie“. The box office literally exploded as families from across the nation gathered to watch a full length escapade of characters many of us have grown up with. Reviews have been extremely positive about the film – unless of course, you happen to live in the one city that they film literally “throws under the bus” – Reno.
Imagine the excitement as film producers contacted a local casino, and asked if they could film at their location. Who would say no to this troupe of fun-loving, kind-hearted icons of America?
“Officials there say the casino’s marquee is what drew the stars in. ‘Apparently they drove by and saw our marquee and just loved it. I think it’s just great for Reno to have an opportunity like the Muppets especially when you think of all the stars in the movie making guest appearances and then the Bonanza Casino, so it’s kind of nice,’ says marketing director Martin Amba.”
Little did anyone know that our dear Muppets would go the way of Reno 911 in depicting northern Nevada at the time. Children who live in this community have been saddened and upset as the film openly makes a mockery of the area’s amenities and lifestyle:
“Reviewers have praised “The Muppets Movie” that opened Wednesday as a comical family flick, but for Reno residents, the joke is on them.The Las Vegas Sun reports that the latest Muppets movie pokes fun of the Biggest Little City in the World several times.
Early in the movie, Fozzie Bear is shown performing a song at a casino in Reno on the edge of town in a Muppets tribute act called the Moopets. The lyrics claim couples don’t need a marriage certificate to get married in Reno. Fozzie’s dressing room is located in an alley behind the casino, where gunfire can be heard.
After Fozzie is reunited with his fellow Muppets, he laments the idea that he might have to return to Reno.”
In fact, the moment that Fozzie “laments the idea” he may have to return to Reno is perhaps the biggest laugh of the film. And the biggest laugh is, of course, at the community of Reno’s expense.
Once again, Reno’s brand is not only tarnished by stereotypes that are not reality – but presented as “reality” in this fantasy. And who among us can blame these wholesome icons of education and fun for jumping aboard the popular train of making fun of Reno? After all…it’s fun sport.
That is, of course, unless you’re a child who lives here – and have those icons literally turn on you to announce to the world that you live at the bottom of cultural barrel. A state you should be ashamed of being part of – but powerless to change.
Thousands of kids in Reno have seen the movie, and from several that have been interviewed – all of them upset by how they were depicted to the world by the Muppets and Disney – perhaps the two most iconic family brands in culture today.
Once again, Reno is the butt of the joke. And once again – Reno is seemingly powerless to respond or react without looking like we “can’t take a joke”.
Are we powerless to express the richness of northern Nevada? How can the community of northern Nevada express its sadness that producers once again took a cheap shot at a community that has faced a year of incredible hardship and disasters? How can we regain our dignity again in the media market? Would it be easier to accept the brand we have acquired, but don’t deserve?
This is a challenge that your suggestion would be very welcome.