After years of Christmas specials and Webbie-winning YouTube videos, the Muppets debuted a charming new theatrical release. Fans rejoiced, yet a solitary diatribe soured the moment. Eric Bolling of Fox Business News hammered Jim Henson’s beloved creations for perpetuating Hollywood prejudices against the oil industry.
Come on, man! They’re the Muppets! Cut them some slack!
To their credit, the Muppets’ use of Tex Richman, sinister oil baron (performed by the very capable Chris Cooper), acknowledges the “Evil Oilman” trope. No cackling for Richman, he just repeats the line: “Maniacal laugh. Maniacal laugh.” He’s meant to encapsulate Hollywood’s penchant for cheap, unoriginal whipping boys.
But is this good storytelling? Sadly, no. Despite Cooper’s splendid performance, Richman was one of the weaker elements of the film because no one knows exactly why it's so important to him to crush the Muppets.
According to the movie's official site, Richman had a more fleshed-out motive that wound up on the editing room floor. Richman’s friends watched the Muppets and laughed. He couldn’t figure out what was so funny. Said friends mocked him. Trauma ensues. Embittered, Richman vows revenge.
It’s not Shakespeare, but you don’t watch the Muppets for Shakespeare (unless you like your Shakespeare with pigs and talking skulls). A stronger villain would have strengthened the overall story, but in the editing room, you’re confronted with tough choices.
Bolling has a point, though not the one he made. Hollywood demonizes certain types—the devout, the military, businessmen, etc. The problem with this is not so much that it indoctrinates kids. It's that it leads to stale, predictable storytelling, the one cardinal sin of entertainment. However, it’s petty to single out the well-intentioned Muppets for an industry-wide flaw.
All I’m saying is give Kermit a chance.