Celeste Ng on the Unabashed
Joy of the Muppets
In Conversation with Mychal Denzel Smith on the Open Form Podcast
Welcome to Open Form, a new weekly film podcast hosted by award-winning writer Mychal Denzel Smith. Each week, a different author chooses a movie: a movie they love, a movie they hate, a movie they hate to love. Something nostalgic from their childhood. A brand-new obsession. Something they’ve been dying to talk about for ages and their friends are constantly annoyed by them bringing it up.
In this episode, Mychal talks to Celeste Ng about the 1979 film The Muppet Movie, directed by James Frawley.
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From the episode:
Celeste Ng: I was trying to think, is there a deeper message here? But I think that’s part of it. I think that there is at the heart, of this movie in particular but maybe of all things Muppet, this kind of genuine joy in life and this genuine desire to just make other people happy.
I was trying to think about all throughout the Muppets, no matter whether they’re on Sesame Street, whether they’re on The Muppet Show, whether they’re in the movie versions or the Muppet Babies, they’re all super different, they’re all super weird, and there’s also this sort of sense of, OK, cool, you do you. That’s great. It’s not hurting anybody. Don’t cut off another frog’s legs, right? They accept Gonzo. He shows up. He’s super weird. OK, now he’s in the car. He’s one of us, right?
There is that sense of just finding joy in life and finding joy in other people and just wanting everyone to be happy and get along, which does sound super rainbow-y and hippy. But I think you’re right. I feel like maybe if there’s a bigger message to that, maybe the rich and famous would be a great thing. But really what you’re doing in some ways is you’re trying to reach other people. You’re trying to sing your song and make it something that people will enjoy. That’s as good an interpretation of the movie as any.
Celeste Ng grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Shaker Heights, Ohio. She graduated from Harvard University and earned an MFA from the University of Michigan. Her debut novel, Everything I Never Told You, was a New York Times bestseller and winner of the Massachusetts Book Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, and the ALA’s Alex Award. Little Fires Everywhere, Ng’s second novel, was a New York Times bestseller, winner of the Ohioana Book Award, and named a best book of the year by over twenty-five publications. Her books have been translated into more than thirty languages and she was the recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.