The Muppet Show is now streaming, with warning about its content

Originally published at: The Muppet Show is now streaming, with warning about its content | Boing Boing


Works for me. I’ve been watching with the kiddos and the shows mostly hold up well but there are some jokes that would be considered racially insensitive today.


The disclaimers are a good start, but parents watching with their kids should use those unfortunate moments as a learning opportunity.

ETA: small kids are very good at spotting things that are alien to their experience, but if an adult doesn’t explain why something seems “off” they can just as easily incorporate it as “normal”.



I was watching some old Loony Tunes collections with my kids last year and it turned into a mini history lesson on everything from WWII to Minstrel.


I saw the disclaimer first in the episode with Kenny Rogers and was “Huh, wonder what is in this one to get flagged…” - then it starts with the very stereotypical arab caricatures in head scarfs and making camel jokes and I was “Ah. yeah. Fair cop.”


I’m going through them in order (done w/ Season 1). Ive seen the warning for a Wayne and Wanda sketch featuring the song “Indian Love Call” (“When I’m calling yooouuuu-oooo-ooo-oooo-oooo”) and a muppet in a feathered headband appears “Hey baby!”.

Another featured the song “Pashalafaka”, about a man falling in love with a Turkish woman. The muppet singing it is wearing a turban and the muppet he’s in love with is wearing stereotypical “mid-eastern” belly-dancing dress (veils, scarves, etc).

The Muppet Show was only from 1974-1979/80. And a LOT of Henson’s original muppet acts were having them lip sync to novelty songs, like Mana Mana, etc. A LOT of those songs were written well before WWII, so there’s a LOT of ‘funny ethnic’ bits in a LOT of stuff. The fact that the muppets are all blue or green or yellow means it’s not QUITE as bad, but there’s still a bunch of what is now very uncomfortable stereotyping.

But, you know, once upon a time, Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s was a laugh riot…


I used to wonder what the Swedes think of this fellow.


I think that is probably the best way to handle it. I rewatched some of the older shows with the kiddo, not sure which one’s to be honest. I think I got season 3 on sale on DVD. I am not sure if I recall any of the bits mentioned, but maybe I also wasn’t looking out for them.

I think for the most part these were tired stereotypical tropes, but not done out of malice. They were just doing what was common for the time, using cultural stereotypes as props, basically. Fortunately we have progressed as a society where we can look at something and ask “Why are we doing it this way? Is it hurtful? Is it necessary to the bit, or just gratuitous use of a stereotype for a cheap laugh?”


I guess because most of America is former Europeans, poking fun of European cultures is seen more as self parody… to a degree. No one cares about Germans in leiderhosen or a Frenchman smoking with a beret or a snooty Britishman. But Polak jokes, drunk Irish, or Italians are all mobsters are three examples where they do care.

I love old Looney Tunes but I have to skip over all the transphobic gags with Bugs dressing up to catfish people. :neutral_face:

I’m genuinely curious about what in The Muppet Show had warranted the warning messages. I haven’t seen any of it since the 1980s, so maybe I would be alarmed at what’s in there. :thinking:


They think he sounds Norwegian. They’re also a bit tired of the question.


I worked at a company with all Swedish management and honestly they loved him. They had little figures of him on their desks and stuff. At least to these particular Swedes, he was a bit like Bob And Doug Mackenzie for Canadians- a combination of poking harmless pun at yourself, and just being excited that your little under-appreciated country is getting some attention. :grimacing:

There’s a lot of privilege in this, of course. When stereotypes about you are not used to oppress you, it’s easy to chuckle along with them.


They think he sounds Norwegian, apparently.

Edit. : ninja’ed.

And then you have this beautiful gem:


Over the last few years I’ve been thinking a lot about how odd it is that the super stereotypical mustachioed and heavily-accented Italian pizza chef is still, to this day, a very common trope in kids cartoons and other entertainment, even on programs that are for the most part very progressive and wouldn’t even consider doing some other ethnic stereotypes that used to be so common. But I guess there just really isn’t any significant outrage from the Italian American community on that trope so it continues to endure.

Edit to add: it’s obviously ubiquitous in advertising as well.


Nothing as bad as 1930s cartoons or unusually offensive by late-1970s standards, mostly just tired ethnic stereotypes played for laughs. A typical example:


content warning: gun violence


Ouch. Yah, I see what they mean. Thanks for that context- much appreciated.

It’s funny how a person’s memories of something they watched as an unenlightened kid are all positive. I almost had a knee-jerk reaction of “The Muppet Show?! That’s the purest thing ever! How could anyone be bothered by…” watches above video …oh… I see. I’ll show myself out.


It does make you wonder what warnings future generations will receive related to the media content being created today. We may be somewhat better than we were in the 1970s but not that much better. We certainly haven’t stopped playing ethnic stereotypes for laughs.

Apu is a supporting character on The Simpsons drawn in broad caricature, and Sunday's episode addressed — sort of — criticisms about the portrayal.

Come to think of it, there was just a whole new series of Mickey Mouse shorts that each took place in a different country and leaned into ethnic stereotypes hard.