Last year's Muppets movie asked us to consider one of life's greatest questions: "Are you a man, or are you a muppet?"
But, while we've spent a year deliberating this question (I, for one, cringe at the idea of being a "man"), Slate contributor Dahlia Lithwick was formulating her own theory of interpersonal relations—a "unified theory of muppet types."
Seems like we've been considering the wrong question this entire time!
Lithwick's theory not only allows us to discover ourselves through muppet archetypes but, more important, allows us to figure out if our relationships will achieve lifelong sustainability based on her principle that "opposite muppets attract."
(NB: I am not Jim Parsons.)
The foundational tenet of UMT is quite simple: "every living human can be classified according to one simple metric: Every one of us is either a Chaos Muppet or an Order Muppet."
"Chaos Muppets are out-of-control, emotional, volatile. They tend toward the blue and fuzzy. They make their way through life in a swirling maelstrom of food crumbs, small flaming objects, and the letter C. Cookie Monster, Ernie, Grover, Gonzo, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and—paradigmatically—Animal, are all Chaos Muppets."
"Order Muppets—and I’m thinking about Bert, Scooter, Sam the Eagle, Kermit the Frog, and the blue guy who is perennially harassed by Grover at restaurants (the Order Muppet Everyman)—tend to be neurotic, highly regimented, averse to surprises and may sport monstrously large eyebrows. They sometimes resent the responsibility of the world weighing on their felt shoulders, but they secretly revel in the knowledge that they keep the show running."
Lithwick, however, is quick to point out that this simplex identity system can be made complex when lived in real life. For example, she identifies herself as a "Faux Chaos Muppet": "Chaos on the outside, but with [a] hard, rigid, inflexible caramel center."
This makes me think that Lithwick needs to clarify the complexity of her theory—are bodies just "outsides" and "insides"? faux-fur fabric and stuffing? A more critical, continental-philosophy trained individual would understand the body as a more fluid network of affects "held together" by the body's materiality.... How would Lithwick's theory translate?
As well, does my identity vary depending upon who I'm relating to or interacting with? One would think so—meaning that I (like a good switch) may be the Order Muppet in one relation and the Chaos one in another. These questions seriously problematize the Unified Muppet Theory.
Lithwick alludes to such a self-construction when she says that "[p]erhaps the best determinant of your Muppet Classification...is your partner: Order Muppets tend to pick Chaos Muppets for their life partners, cookies notwithstanding. Thus, if you’re in a long-term relationship with a Chaos Muppet, there’s a pretty good chance you’re Bert. If you’re married to an Order Muppet, you may well be the Swedish Chef. And by all that is holy, don’t marry your same type if you can help it. That’s where Baby Elmos come from."
But who identifies whom? Here I'm confused. Is it in the moment that I meet another muppet that we determine how to best identify within that relation? This makes more sense, and remains aligned with the principle logic of the theory, than what I think she's saying: that identifying your partner as, for instance, a Double Order Muppet (i.e. OCD, inscrutable) first and then determining your identity second, after that interpellation of the other ("Hey, you Double Order Muppet!").
There's so much to consider in this young, promising theory—then again, anything beyond psychoanalysis, even if its just a figurative adaptation of such, is agreeable to me.