Be a Pig, Be a Pig, Be a…Miss Piggy?
Originally published for Shrinktank, 2019
By Tasha Jackson
“I don’t care what you think of me,
unless you think I’m awesome.
In which case, you are right.”
Muppet A-lister, Miss Piggy’s biggest fan is unapologetically…Missy Piggy—and shouldn’t we all be our own biggest fan? I realize a fictional cloven-hooved actress is not on the level of the Marie Curie’s or Anais Nin’s of the world, but can we learn a few life lessons from her pig power? I think so because for women of my generation, the pratfalling porker with the golden tresses and bawdy attitude, was a trailblazing feminist. If you weren’t around in the 1970s, you may not know that, back then, the world was a very different place for women. Miss Piggy debuted in an era when female comedians rarely got any air time. Fiercely independent women were seen as domineering “bitches,” even ones made of felt, so Miss Piggy stood out as a role model for female self-confidence, bravado, humor, and getting what she wanted out of life.
This boss b*tch was truly ahead of her time.
In the Muppet universe, one could say she was the classic rags-to-riches story. Wikipedia reports she came from “humble beginnings from a small midwestern town. Father died in her youth…raised by an unkind mother…Miss Piggy had to enter beauty contests to survive.” As an outsider from the sticks, she got ahead, not by her looks, but by grit, resilience, and chutzpah. With early traumas, people can often get stuck in time, but this babe moved on. She hoofed her way to Hollywood stardom, achieving the holy trifecta of hits in Film, TV, and books, and even had her own perfume line, “Moi” —which, thanks to its certain, “je ne sais moi,” convinced the world that it’s sexy to smell like a pig. So, she’s kind of a branding genius, too.
As a psychotherapist, I cannot ethically diagnose an individual I’m not treating, so this is purely speculation, but I feel like Miss Piggy became what Abraham Maslow (1943) defined as a self-actualized person, which is the “full realization of one’s creative, intellectual, or social potential.” In today’s parlance, we’d say Piggy was the “best version of herself,” nailing every step in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: food, water, shelter, safety, job, community connection, and yes, feeling loved, by a frog, no less.
My guess is Miss Piggy transcended her past by doing a lot of self-work to heal her deep childhood wounds before she could reach her full potential. Surely, she didn’t merely slap some lipstick on a pig and Voila! Out came an authentic, multi-dimensional, and happy individual. More likely, Miss Piggy did the work, and found a way to turn her wounds into a warrior spirit. I mean, just look at her. She wears her strength of character right on her leopard print sleeve.
In a world of tummy tucks and butt-lifts—Miss Piggy embraces her natural body. While managing to staying in tremendous shape, she still preaches “snackerizing” over jazzercising. She owns her sexuality too, never hesitating to display it to the world. She flirts whenever, with whomever—no one is off limits. Back in the 70s, in a culture that was obsessed with objectifying women while slut shaming anyone who dares color out of the societal lines, this was freaking revelatory.
All these years later, Miss Piggy remains unapologetically herself.
She still thrives in a male dominated profession with scores of male bosses up her ass (see Frank Oz’s hand). She still falls down stairs with dignity and grace. She still clears her throat on TV like a trucker, never thinking twice. She can still cry on a whim and pull herself together in a flash. She still expresses her emotions relentlessly and never ends any conversation until she is finished. And Miss Piggy remains an artist at expressing her joy and passion for life, often leaping ecstatically in the air when things go her way.
She is also brutally honest about her own inner ageism. One day, she just decided, “I’m not going to age.” Brilliant, right? Miss Piggy tends to say things lot of women are feeling, but don’t express. Her ire is often provoked by perfect people, a common feeling, especially now when our media’s relentless projection of perfection can be maddening. Miss Piggy’s relationship with the media seems unique, too. Unlike other celebrities, they never judge her for her eating habits, animal urges, or overt sexual advances. Instead, magazines like US Weekly flaunt her independence, style, and sass with commentary like “Fierce Pork in Florals,” or “Pig Loves Leopard!” She clearly sets boundaries for how she wants to be treated, including to the media, living the adage, “We only let people treat us the way we let them.”
That’s pig power, babe.
As long as we’re speculating, another possibility is Miss Piggy has achieved what psychologists calls being “differentiated,” which is when a person stays in touch with their true selves while remaining connecting with outside groups. This skill allows us to better see how others project false images onto us. It also allows people (and pigs) to have thicker skin, and avoid destructive influences, so we don’t lose sight of our true selves.
But…then there is the pig’s violence.
OK, nobody’s perfect, but this is clearly Miss Piggy’s personal weakness, especially towards Kermit, her so-called lover. As a fangirl, I hesitate to even address her spousal abuse problem. I’d much rather spin it towards feminism, and defend her actions by comparing her schtick to other physical comics—why can’t she be given a pass like so many other male comedians who use their bodies for laughs like The Three Stooges, Jim Carrey, or Chris Farley? Admittedly, I question my motives for wanting to sweep her violence under the rug; it’s like a mirror of what happens in the real world, and thus a reflection of how we make excuses for violent behavior because we “love our abuser.” We tend to excuse the abuse “this time” and hope that they won’t don’t it again. But, that rarely happens. Violence often works in recurring cycles—so I’m not giving the pig a pass. She needs help!
We also seem to have a gender bias when it comes to violence and women, when according to leading trauma expert Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, “Women are (actually) more violent than men, two to one, worldwide.” Yes, male violence can be more destructive due to their size and strength; but women have more incidents of violence. So, I’ll just say that our favorite polarizing Pig is, yes, playful and always game, but violence should never be taken lightly. Fortunately, Miss Piggy and Kermit split up many years ago.
As an outsider, I think this is for the best.
Healthy love does not involve abuse, and it seems with time, the more mature Miss Piggy has grown, she seems more peaceful. She even advertised her new non-violent nature with her perfume’s tagline, "I believe if we all smelled better, we would all get along. Remember, this is not about perfume, it's about world peace.” For the sake of Kermit, and abused spouses everywhere, I sincerely hope she holds true her own words, and gave her snout a long look in the mirror, because I feel like women everywhere can learn valuable lessons from her story (good and bad) so that we may embody the confidence of a pig, and turn her personal mantra, “Hi-yah!” into a calling card for big bad boss bitches, everywhere.
5 LIFE LESSONS TO PIG BY
I will use my grit and determination to move forward after a trauma.
I will be comfortable in my own rind so I can release my charisma to the world.
I will stay connected to groups, yet always remain my true self.
I will unapologetically be me, curly tail, and all.
I will squeal and shout and be my own biggest fan.
Bio | Born with a girl crush on a 2 foot pig, Tasha thinks the world’s downfall may come from the lack of Pig Power, and not nearly enough Mrs. Roper-like vintage Mumus in the fashion world. As for the serious stuff—for the past 16 years, Tasha Jackson has been a marriage and family therapist with a private practice in San Francisco. Follow her musings on Twitter: @TashaJacksTweet