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Muppets director finally reveals Miss Piggy’s troubling past

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Kayleigh Dray
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Miss Piggy is a “damaged person”, confirms director Frank Oz.

Since she first stepped into the spotlight in 1974, Miss Piggy has been showing the world that it doesn’t matter what you look like: women can do anything.

However, Frank Oz – who has given voice and spirit to many of the Muppets over the years as a puppeteer and voice actor – has now revealed that Miss Piggy is a “damaged person”.

Sitting down with Vanity Fair, he explains that, in order to do justice to his characters, he gives each one an incredibly detailed backstory which the audience is not aware of.

“It’s very elaborate,” he says. “And I have to take it seriously, because if it was funny, it wouldn’t be funny.”

Fozzie’s past sees him get bored of hibernation and head out of his cave to tell jokes, for example, and Grover is a people-pleaser. However, Oz goes on to explain that Piggy was forced to leave home due to the inappropriate attention she received from her mother’s boyfriends.

“I have to be serious, because whatever damage she has in her life, and whatever inconsistencies, whatever insecurities, whatever lack of talent, she desperately does not want to be that person,” he says.

“She came from a farm, and she had to leave home because her father died in a tractor accident. And as her mother was alone and Piggy grew up, it was fine. But then, as she got older, these suitors who came for her mother paid more attention to Piggy, and there was tremendous tension. Finally, Piggy just had to leave and go it alone.

“She didn’t have anything, really, so, like many single women, she had to take care of herself.”

Of course, there’s no denying that she’s certainly done that.

Back in 1980, Miss Piggy graced the cover of LIFE magazine and openly declared her intentions to run for president (she was the first woman – or, at the very least, the first female – to do so). Just two years later, she released a self-help book, all about taking life into her own hands. Then, in 2009, Piggy penned a second book giving women advice on how to live in a world of men, before going on to terminate her toxic relationship with Kermit the Frog

And, most recently, she sat down with stylist.co.uk to share her best career advice (including how to handle the gender pay gap) with women everywhere.

“If they tried to pay me less?” she told us at the time. “Well, let’s just say that’s why they created karate. And lawyers. In that order.”

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All in all, it’s easy to see why this pig has become such a role model for so many women. 

However, we can’t help but feel it’s a shame that all of Piggy’s tremendous qualities – her self-sufficiency, assertiveness, and that dazzling confidence – can only be explained away as defence mechanisms thrown up against her (frankly) disturbing childhood experiences.

We suppose it makes sense, though, that Oz might have felt the need to soften Piggy’s “aggressive” personality with a ‘damsel in distress’ narrative.

Why? Well, over the last few years, research has found that, for women, there’s nothing quite as terrible as being seen as cocky or too confident. And it seems as if our reasoning for this is rooted in some logic, despite being horribly depressing: women who are assertive or forceful (aka intent on pursuing their dreams and achieving their goals) are perceived as 35% less competent than non-assertive women, according to a 2015 VitalSmarts study

And one Stanford University paper, which compared employees with certain masculine traits – like being “aggressive, assertive, and confident” – with feminine traits such as “acting like a lady”, found that a woman can’t step outside of her traditional role without making waves, or experiencing a backlash.

“To be successful, you must be assertive and confident, but if you are aggressive as a woman you are sometimes punished for behaving in ways that are contrary to the feminine stereotype,” the researchers theorised.

Hmm. When this statement applies to pigs as well as women, you know it’s time for the world to make a change and start embracing badass females – no matter what form they come in.

Images: Getty

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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