The British Correspondent – Personally, I love to hate my Muppet villains just as I love to hate my coffee: a latte. One of the things that I love to hate most is that the Muppet villains are often many-layered and, having removed the lid of the cappuccino cup, you’ll find it contains many layers, much as a hot chocolate contains a layer of marshmallows, a layer of spray-cream, and thick layers of chocolate and steamed milk. (Note: I may be mixing up my drink metaphors. But what can I say, I’m writing this from a Costa Coffee in an undisclosed location within the United Kingdom, hoping to avoid detection by my agent so they won’t realise my deadline date went whooshing by weeks ago.)
Now, as with most drinks, what you get out of character analysis is related to what you put into it (Much as dried leaves in hot water, generally leads to tea…sometimes just leads to soggy leaves). Character analysis can be influenced by how you read the character, how you see their experiences through your own eyes, and what meaning the character traits bring to you. Whether the original actor intended a certain character trait to reveal something of their character, or whether they just tried not to laugh after the director shouted, “Action” is up to you to decide.
With that in mind, here is my deep and thoughtful (and caffeinated) musings on Ms Rachel Bitterman. If you have your own theories as to why she is the way she is, please feel free to send them to me at the address below:
The British Correspondent,
Undisclosed Coffee Shop,
Nondescript British High Street,
Ms Rachel Bitterman (It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie)
Many of the Muppet Villains are given a slow-burn to villainy. Doc Hopper, for example, starts out as a humble sales-frog in a green costume with some rather snazzy opera-glasses. Nicky Holiday appears as a charming sibling…and even gets to help a brownie across the road (or visa versa) early on in the movie before later turning evil and pulling a gun on our frog. Even the shady talent manager from The Muppets Take Manhattan agreed to put on their show…right before trying to scam them outta their money. But Ms Bitterman isn’t given this treatment, instead the effects of her devilry are demonstrated from the start with Kermit (yes, KERMIT) suffering from a serious case of the upsets, Fozzie sighing sadly, Miss Piggy being shrugged off and Johnny not truly appreciating Sal’s solid gold record player. (Okay, that last one wasn’t really her fault.) The point is, before we’ve even met the woman, we pretty much despise her for what she has done to our friends…
Perhaps if the story was told in a linear fashion, she’d have been given more of a fighting chance?
From the moment she steps onto the scene, she appears to hold the Muppets in contempt, referring to them as Muffins. But, let’s give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that she greets each and every one of her clients as breakfast carbohydrate based food products, she still only gets about ten seconds to introduce herself, before once again her contempt snakes across the screen as she glibly informs the Muppets that their former banker, Mr Bitterman, is dead.
We never find out exactly what relationship this fellow has to Rachel (for the purpose of this article we are assuming father) but her deadpan expression upon announcing her bereavement and subsequent segue into payment details on the theatre or foreclosure suggest that whoever he was, she didn’t care for him all that much.
And so it continues, every sentence that pours from the woman’s lips simply aches with contempt and utter lack of regard for dreams or imagination – except that one moment when she accidentally lets slip the line about being the queen of a Polynesian tribe.
Now, here’s where we deviate from straight facts and I start speculating heavily. As I watch Ms Bitterman talking, I feel as though it is not her speaking. I mean, obviously, she’s speaking…but I don’t feel that it comes from the core of herself but rather the lines seem forced and rehearsed and said with utter contempt – not just for the Muppets but also for the words she is speaking. I’d like to invite you to imagine a scene, don’t worry, we’ll have a little fun with it.
Imagine a young Rachel (let’s imagine her played by Rachel McAddams, shall we?). Now let yourself imagine her as punk rocker with the leather studs, purple hair…in short, one of the pierced and tattooed rave monkey she appears to loathe so much. (See, I told you it would be fun.) Imagine she’s the lead singer of a punk rock band, staying out one Christmas Eve at her biggest gig yet…while at home her parents wait up disapprovingly for her to return by Midnight for ‘Family Christmas’. It’s funny how one day can mean so many different things. Finally, she returns home filled with the hopes and dreams and stardust that comes from having a band, determined to make it to the big time.
I imagine her parents would have acted fast and hard to remove any such dream from her mind, reminding her that she cannot work for stardust and that you cannot eat a dream, you cannot sell a dream. After they had told her this time after time, eventually, she gave up her dream of becoming a punk-rock goddess of the stage and sufficed herself with becoming an accountant. What’s more, having suffered under those guiding principles of harsh reality and contempt for dreams, she clearly began to pass that contempt on to others, inflicting on them what she felt herself.
Now go back to the beginning of the story…Her father, who would never invest in her dreams, has given the Muppets plenty of time to pay off their debts, investing in their dreams. He then dies, and Rachel (probably already a partner in the firm) takes over the company. Why shouldn’t she take that moment to go smash up someone else’s party?
I know what you’re thinking, is the point of this article series just to give the Villains an excuse to act the way they do? NO. I’m trying to understand their motivation, but a motivation is certainly not an excuse. Rachel…poor little Rachel…still had a choice, she still could have stood by what she wanted to do and she could certainly have stopped the loop by not crushing the dreams of others the way that her own were crushed.
She’s even given a moment for redemption right at the last minute when Bunsen suggests that she invest in the theatre and make it the best Christmas ever! But even this, she rejects…determined to follow her villainy through to its ultimate, lonely, bitter end.
Ruthlessness: 8 (Rachel was the only villain to really make Kermit give up on his dream… Where Doc Hopper tried to stop him, Rachel succeeded. Where Nicky tried to separate Piggy and Kermit, Rachel succeeded.)
Sidekick: 6 (Pepe played an important part as her sidekick, having been lured away by the fact ‘she is hawt, h’okay!’ and I would give him a 10, but her other sidekick was the employee she took home to decorate her tree, and he brought the side-kick rating down to 6.)
Evil appearance: 8 (Deliciously devilish in her pouty sexiness…she lured Pepe away and is an expert at the cats’bum lip pout so we’ll give her an 8 for that.)
Talking the talk: 10 (She gets high points for calling the Muppets ‘Muffins’ and for screaming and shouting! Plus, she paused halfway through the movie to effectively say, “I’d have thought you’d have figured out by now that I’m the bad guy…”)
Likability: 4 (She’s funny, and interesting, but there’s nothing really very likable to her character. I don’t think you’d want to share a cup of coffee with this woman…which reminds me…I left that coffee shop in such a hurry earlier after seeing someone who looked rather like my agent passing by and am now typing this quickly from the bus-stop…I probably should have paid before I left…)
Returnability: 6 (I’m sure she could have something interesting to add in another encounter with the Muppets, but once again I feel as though her story has fully told.)
Likelihood to offer you a rather nifty Christmas bonus: 10 (I offered my agent a Christmas bonus once, but that still hasn’t let me off the hook. I better mail this in before the #14 bus arrives.)
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier