What Kermit and Piggy Taught Us About Yin and Yang
Find balance in an ever-changing world of relationships.
Posted Jun 21, 2019
We've had an enduring love affair with Kermit and Miss Piggy's tempestuous relationship. A mirror through which we could safely explore the changing and expanding roles of men and women in our culture, they also became a vehicle through which we could catch glimmers of the future. Most importantly, they've helped us learn about the challenge and value of balancing yin and yang in an ever-changing world.
Piggy and Kermit broke the stereotypes of their time (the '70s and '80s) and surprised us with a female character taking on more of the yang—the fierce, discriminating, "masculine" energy (Hi-ya!)—and the male character taking on more of the yin—the warm, receptive, and inviting "feminine" energy. They reflected and anticipated the changes of the times, with the female character taking on the independent, take-charge, and empowered gumption of coming into the spotlight, while the male character took on the sensitive and emotionally available guy working behind the scenes to get the show going.
This dynamic mirrored the trends of women moving more into the foreground in the work world and finding their voice in themselves and in relationships, just as men were moving more into the background by learning to embrace and explore their inner emotional world, nurturing a newfound connection to the domestic front of home and hearth.
Miss Piggy represented the fierce, independent, take-no-prisoners attitude of the Madonna generation of women coming up in a world entitled to enjoy the spotlight (remember "Express yourself?"). She presaged Kelly's Clarkson's song "Miss Independent," showcasing the surprising mixture of ambivalence found in the modern woman who wants to be strong and yet cared for and showered with tenderness.
Here we see the underground desire for women to also allow their vulnerable side to come out and be honored—the desire for that quintessential feminine side to be cherished. In her quest for the love of Kermit, Piggy is able to let down her guard and allow this vulnerable side to be nourished. Just watch out when it gets too close for comfort!
Kermit represented the kinder, gentler, and more emotionally available New Age man, able to sit back and dream about what's on the other side of rainbows: the John Denver "Sunshine on My Shoulders" type. While not self-confident in his power or totally comfortable in his own skin, he was able to connect broadly and widely, both as the troupe leader, comedian, and personality, and more generally in his open heart to the world.
Each character represented something both old and new at the same time. It was the creative reworking of these archetypal forces that resonated and still connects with us so deeply. Ultimately, what was so appealing about Kermit and Piggy is that they needed and complemented each other in the ways that we all crave for outside and inside of us—we are all trying to make a relationship between this unruly yin and yang.
The yin and yang clash and yet are attracted to each other; it's only in the attempts at a relationship between them that something creative and extraordinary occurs. Where would Kermit's show be without Missy Piggy as his star, and where would Missy Piggy be as a star without Kermit's grounded backing?
Kermit and Piggy also appeal to us, because they showcase the possible problems of not being balanced on one's own. Too much yang can lead to capricious karate-chops and the tiresome narcissism of a diva, and too much yin can lead to a sort of spinelessness and wishy-washiness (sorry Kermie!) that doesn't carry enough authority.
Happily, both Piggy and Kermit had enough redeeming qualities and other dimensions to have us forgive these shortcomings. Moreover, we see many glimmers of them taking on their complementary sides through their relationship itself. Piggy's vulnerability and tenderness come out in her relationship with Kermit, and Kermit's sense of authority and self-esteem get enhanced by his relationship with Piggy.
Kermit and Piggy also presage aspects of male-female relationships yet to be more openly discussed. For example, I view the end of the relationship between Kermit and Piggy as a new possibility for Kermit to get to know his own authority and have his own independence without the, at times, highly possessive love of Miss Piggy. In some ways, I believe this symbolizes the men of our times incorporating the healthy aspects of the yin and reintegrating them with the traditional aspects of the yang—having both their emotional warmth and availability alongside a healthy sense of authority and power. In other words, I believe Kermit and Miss Piggy actually anticipate new trends in relationships and in the ways in which men and women are expanding.
Some have also looked at the breakup of Kermit and Piggy from another novel perspective, likening it to the end of an abusive relationship. According to Noah Berlatsky from The New Republic:
"Kermit continually lives in fear of his girlfriend, knowing that even simple misunderstandings or slips of the tongue will result in Miss Piggy erupting like a porcine Vesuvius"
Dating coach Harris O'Malley writes in The Daily Dot:
"On at least three separate incidents, she attempts to coerce Kermit into a relationship, beating him when he refuses. Other times she reacts with violence and rage whenever Kermit commits the 'sin' of breaking up with her, simply hugging a friend, talking to a woman, or even just standing too close to them."
Piggy's side of the breakup focuses on her need to be empowered, to be a strong woman who is out there and not bogged down (sorry for the pun, Kermie!) by Kermit's desire to stay out of the limelight. Her take is that it is time for "moi" to really savor being on her own and to find a better balance of her ambitions and her romantic life.
We also must keep in mind Piggy's heartbreaking backstory, being the last of the litter in her family (something like 17 children and only 16 teats, if I recall her backstory correctly), of losing her father very young, and being forced to enter beauty contests to survive. The long-enduring trauma of this deserves our great sympathy and the kind of healing that some time to find herself will really serve.
Kermit and Piggy also highlight something bigger about all of us—the complementary aspects of introversion and extroversion. Kermit, who is content to reflect on rainbows in the swamp (a symbol of the inner world and the murky unconscious), represents the introverted side that refills by going inward, and Miss Piggy, the lover of getting out there on the stage and being seen, represents the extroverted side of us that craves the energy of people. In other words, they both represent something primal and fundamental in all of our psyches and do it in such a humorous and real way that it's no wonder we can't stop watching them.
For more about this fascinating "power couple" and the story that inspired it for me, check out Sally Hersheps fabulous interview with myself and others on the American Icons series on NPR.