I’ve been surfing YouTube over the past few weeks, looking for channels that have posted some of my favorite cartoons from the 80’s and 90’s. I finally found one that had collected the whole run of The Muppet Babies, and I decided the other night to watch the pilot.
It started out simply enough — the babies were playing and being too loud, and Nanny had to come in and tell them to be quiet because their neighbor worked a night shift and was trying to sleep. It turned out that their neighbor was a policeman, and during the course of the episode, the Muppet Babies were reprimanded several times for being loud as they tried to keep Animal under control for fear of the policeman coming over and taking them to jail.
Throughout the episode, the Muppet Babies went on several adventures, but what stuck with me were the conversations and exclamations of the babies as they attempted to stay under the radar and avoid interaction with the policeman.
They received no help from Nanny, who merely appeared two or three times and told them to be quiet. There was no attempt to remove Animal from the nursery and calm him, there was no conversation between Nanny and the babies about how policemen didn’t hurt innocent people, nor that she would protect them from getting hurt.
Instead, the babies were forced to play out their fears and hope that the policeman wouldn’t come over and drag them away in handcuffs. I was shocked to see this from a cartoon, but then I realized I really shouldn’t be surprised. Police brutality has been a topic of conversation between parents and children for decades.
It’s deplorable that this topic is still (and perhaps even more so) relevant today. With the growing number of deaths at the hands of policemen (to date, there have only been seven days this year where no one has been killed by policemen), children, teenagers, and adults are all growing more fearful of having any sort of interaction with law enforcement.
While the majority of cartoons are marketed toward children, that doesn’t mean that they don’t address serious topics. Muppet Babies might have been ahead of its time, but its first message, broadcast across the country, is one that addresses a common fear among its audience. If we can’t trust the police to obey the law and keep us safe, who can we trust?
I think the message from the Muppet Babies pilot is that we do live in a world where those in power aren’t always good guys, and we have to protect ourselves as best we can. I think there’s also something to be said for the way the babies banded together to help Animal be quiet. Community is vital if we are to help each other and turn the tide against police brutality.
You can find The Muppet Babies on YouTube, and if you find yourself doubting the veracity of the numbers on police brutality and citizen deaths, or if you have up until this point been unaware of the repeated, horrific occurrences, you can view the entire “Killed By Police in 2015” list here. It’s past time we put a stop to this.