The latest victim of the current anti-worker/pro-big business atmosphere is none other than the beloved Kermit the Frog. If you don't think this is a big news story, you're wrong. The New York Times put it on Page 1 of its business section (that Russian oil company controversy was on Page 4). It turns out Steve Whitmire, the puppeteer who brought Kermit to life for 27 years was recently fired by Disney, the company that owns the Muppets. When we look at this case in the proper context, we cannot ignore the fact that Kermit is a Muppet of color. Years ago, he touched millions of people with his somewhat anguished view of his hue in the classic song, "It's Not Easy Being Green." So now one of the big questions is, will Disney hire someone else to keep Kermit as part of the Muppets or will they replace him with a new Muppet who will just happen to be a white, male piece of felt?
Disney has never had a reputation for being worker-friendly, and it hasn't made a secret of its attitude towards labor. In "Snow White," "Whistle While You Work" conveys Disney's feeling that workers shouldn't worry about fair pay, they should just be happy that they have a job. In the same anti-labor movie, the seven dwarfs work in one of the most dangerous occupations, mining. And will the brave workers get the rewards they dig for day after day? Of course not, as the chorus makes clear:
"We dig up diamonds by the score
A thousand rubies, sometimes more
But we don't know what we dig 'em for
We dig dig dig a-dig dig."
And after spending all day, robbing the earth of its natural resources, do these dwarfs come home exhausted and just grateful that they have survived another day? Nope. They sing their cheery, "Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho, it's home from work we go" song as if that would be the attitude of miners after a ten hour day underground.
So this most recent firing of a worker shouldn't shock any of us. There have been several versions of why the dismissal took place. Personally, I don't think there is any credibility to the smear that Kermit had sexually harassed Miss Piggy. Studio executives said that Steve Whitmire had a bad attitude. They also took a shot at his talent, saying that his Kermit was "sometimes excellent, and always pretty good." "Pretty good?" He portrayed Kermit for 27 years on television and films, and made personal appearances all over the world. But suddenly they find him "sometimes excellent, and always pretty good?"
This kind of dismissal is happening in all kinds of businesses today. Respect for many workers is at an all-time low as huge corporations are more concerned about their bottom line than about the letter J or the Number 7. Puppeteer Whitmire feels that he and Disney could have worked out their problems. He said they could have simply talked to each other and compromised on things. You know, the way the Muppets have taught generations of children to do.
I imagine that Kermit getting the axe has made the other Muppets nervous about their job security. And if he was really fired because of a "bad attitude," watch for those iconic characters to fear that their attitudes will be judged, too. Who knows? By next season, one of the lead characters might change his name to "Oscar the Nice Guy."