by Keith Buzzard, 10th January 2023
I find myself wondering how Muppets are born. Obviously I understand that Muppets are carefully crafted in puppetry shops, but for the sake of this paper I’m accepting the conceit of Muppets as presented: they are living beings. Organic. Autonomous. Conscious. They have hopes and dreams. They live and love. So, accepting this, I have wondered how they are born. I’m not interested in the process of procreation, but in how they appear and develop once they are conceived. What do they look like? Muppets have been known to acknowledge, in their own universe, that they are in fact puppets; driven by an internal force. One could argue that we are all driven by an internal force, a ghost in the machine, to borrow the phrase. To what extent does this internal force guide their development?
Muppets are unique in that they are capable of acknowledging that that internal force may be outside of their own consciousness. A Hand. Not just a hand, but someone else’s hand. The Hand is separate from their consciousness, but to what extent does the hand truly control them? The Hand provides a vague skeletal structure for the Muppet, but Muppets appear in all shapes, sizes, colors, materials. Does the Hand have a say in determining these parameters? Is this Hand God? This is unlikely, as it is well accepted that Muppets are widely known to be atheist, or at least agnostic.
So, how are Muppets born? In universe, the offspring have been shown as being a sort of amalgamation of the parents, to varying degree, but not always. Sometimes a Muppet offspring may not resemble either parent. They may appear as entirely different. How does this happen? This is of course discounting an adulterous incident, which, while possible, seems out of character for Muppets writ large.
I wonder if the process is less about genetics and is a more conscious process. I’ve come up with two theories, thus far. The first is based more on genetics, the second more on conscious, or, at least, semi-conscious decision making.
The first theory is what I’ve decided to call The Dexterous Penguin. I call it this for several reasons. The first and foremost reason being that it amuses me. We are seriously discussing a very silly idea and that is reason enough for me and would fit within Muppet raison d’etre. The second reason is, like the definitely-real-and-not-a-government-hoax penguin, the Muppet is a species wherein the parents are directly involved in the care and upbringing of their offspring.
In The Dexterous Penguin theory, we presuppose that the two Muppet parents are contributing a share of their genetic code which the offspring graciously accepts to form their own genetic code. The resulting Muppet has traits based off of how the two parents combine in utero, comma-question mark? If one parent is blue and has horns and the other parent is red with four googly eyes, then perhaps the resulting offspring becomes purple (the result of one parent being the color blue and the other being the color red) and perhaps has one horn and three googly eyes (the result of one parent possessing horns and the other multiple googly eyes).
But much like birds being born without feathers, The Dexterous Penguin theory presupposes that the newborn Muppet similarly looks very different when it is born as opposed to what it will develop into. This theory supposes that the shape and appearance of the average Muppet first resembles thusly: the Muppet baby (not to be confused with the Muppet Babies, an altogether different, yet equally interesting idea, more applicable to the social structures of Muppet kind and not the biological structures being hypothesized here) is born resembling the human forearm and hand as we know them. The forearm functioning as the torso/main trunk of the body with the bare hand, with its four fingers and singular opposable thumb functioning as the head.
The newborn Muppet is not born with eyes. It is just a hand connected to a disembodied forearm after all. The newborn Muppet is blind at first, like many newborn animals, and the eyes, of varying amount and orientation, develop later, like the buds of flowers, to wax poetic. Attached to the forearm, just below the hand/head of the newborn Muppet exists additional human-esque hands on either side that will eventually develop into their arms, again of varying number and appearance.
At the base of the forearm appears additional human hands that will develop into legs and feet, with varying results, related to locomotion. The entire Muppet at this stage resembling an awkward creature, much like a penguin on land (though since a penguin is very swift and graceful in water, it would be interesting to observe how a newborn Muppet would fare in different environments, such as submerged in water). Presumably, the Muppet parents still care a great deal for the newborn, despite this off putting appearance.
The second theory I have, thus far, concerning the development of newborn Muppets is what I have been referring to as The Handsy Buffet of Fate. This theory allows for a bit more agency on the part of the newborn and provides a logical explanation for how a resulting Muppet progeny may not resemble either of the Muppet parents. In The Handsy Buffet of Fate, the parents curate a selection of materials, such as felt (functioning as one variety of skin), googly eyes (or glasses when no eyes are observable) of varying sizes and shapes, and other accoutrement (horns, additional appendages such as wings, tails, etc.).
Much like the joey of kangaroos, the newborn Muppet crawls blindly towards these materials instinctually, grasping and gathering the presented options into themselves. This method acknowledges the need for those outside of Muppets themselves, relying, at least originally, on craftspeople and their shops, thereby forming an almost symbiotic relationship with those outside of their immediate family unit. This reliance on shops obviously marks the importance of craft shops and the textile industry as a whole, in the same way humans rely on industries for such things as baby formula, diapers, and non-toxic materials.
This is presuming Muppets to be mammalian, which may or may not be true and-slash-or writ-large across Muppets as a people. Should a particular subset of Muppets begin life oviparous, as in avian and reptilian subsets, of which there are many Muppet examples, one such being the ABC network’s documentary Dinosaurs, these theories could still hold true, just with a bit more explanation (the Muppet parents gathering the materials and stuffing them inside of an egg, developed by one of the parents or in tandem, like a load of laundry inside a washer, and the embryonic Muppet accessing them as needed).
The question that remains that could affect the validity of these theories is one of evolution. Did Muppets evolve alongside humans? What could have been the common ancestor between humans and Muppets? Was it the sponge, for example? Fossil records do not indicate how far back Muppets have existed as we know them since felt tends to decompose more quickly and completely than bone and feather. Perhaps Muppets did not exist prior to the invention of certain textiles and the ability to mass produce them. If this is the case, the larger question would be where did Muppets come from? There are examples of neanderthal-esque Muppets, but is this merely an affectation, as these examples can be quite contemporary. Were Muppets intelligently created? Are we to accept that Jim Henson is a God, of sorts? Wouldn’t a God have caught their cancer at an earlier stage? Or was his death predetermined, effectively acting as a Jesusian sacrifice, freeing Muppets of their original sin (that of static cling)? I suggest we leave such discussions and discourses to the theologians.