Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

We Watch It For the Music | Muppets from Space


The Muppets do not try to be anything but themselves. Their innocence is reflected in their humor as well as their honesty. Each of them exhibit unique character traits, and each of them have flaws. This writer believes that is why The Muppets are so universally loved. Audiences can find themselves within the Muppets. Their quirkiness and hyperbolic nature are easy to laugh at; they are first and foremost comedic performers. Beyond that, the Muppets were created by real people. Naturally, their creators bestowed them with thoughts and feelings anchored in reality. So, what does a Muppet do when they don’t know themselves?

Being part of a family is a tough job. It’s easy to become lost in the noise, always fighting to be heard. Muppets From Space is a film about self-discovery and finding your voice. At the beginning of the film, Gonzo is alone, isolated and depressed. He does not know who he is or where he came from. During the opening scene, “Brick House” by the Commodores plays as we are introduced to Gonzo’s housemates. The breadwinner in this household is Miss Piggy, an aspiring TV news anchor who is both beautiful and strong-willed. Those traits are reflected in “Brick House.” This classic funk track sets the stage for the rest of the soundtrack.

Gonzo begins his day like any other until a message appears in his breakfast cereal that reads, “R U THERE?” This marks the beginning of his journey. The theme song for his interstellar escapade is “Shining Star” by Earth, Wind & Fire. The message of this song ties closely to the main theme of the film. People are like stars in the sky; from the empty void, we cast out our dreams and ourselves in an effort to illuminate the world. Without dreams, life becomes stagnant and uninteresting. Without starshine, the sky would remain dark. It isn’t until a person takes that first step into the unknown that something beautiful is created. Life is daunting, but this does not stop people from inspiring others with their dreams. All it takes is a spark to ignite that dream. For our hero, that spark was a bolt of lightning that sent his mind into outer space. From this, Gonzo is endowed with cosmic knowledge of how to contact his extraterrestrial family. He is so vexed by the possibility of knowing his family that, in the middle of the night, he hops on a lawnmower and cuts his message reply— “I AM HERE” — into the Muppets’ front lawn. 

For this scene, the filmmakers have chosen “Get Up Offa That Thing” by James Brown, Godfather of Soul. Soul music, from which funk is derived, came from the United States during the ‘50s and ‘60s. The rise of soul and the emergence of funk coincides with the Civil Rights Movement. During this period, there were many people who were unsatisfied with the rate of social change. As a musician, Brown wrote and performed many songs with lyrics that highlighted the black experience. He often used funk as a means of empowerment, allowing many of his listeners to enjoy the same feeling. I provide this historical context for the reason that every song I discuss here is funk. The whole genre is largely characterized by an afrocentric perspective, meaning that most funk classics are subjectively a form of social justice. Of course, lyrics and subject matters will vary across the genre, but the feeling stays much the same. Another funk song from this film is “Survival” by the O’Jays. It plays during a scene where Rizzo and others are in physical danger and utterly powerless against their captors. They are lab rats for the evil scientists that hold them captive to gain… research experience, I guess? The torture may have been pointless, but the pain that those rat puppets felt was real.

“Get Up Offa That Thing” plays twice during the film. During the first instance, Gonzo is able to take control of his own life. Without reservation, he reconnects to his roots, carving that message into the grass and telling everyone who he really is. The second instance, Gonzo is clearly in emotional distress. In desperation, he enlists the help of Bunsen and Beaker. During both, Gonzo is completely enthralled, bound to the idea of self-actualization. This is something achievable through only truth, and the truth that Gonzo is faced with is what allows him to “Get Up Offa That Thing.” Contacting the aliens is Gonzo’s first step towards self-actualization. Though, the meaning of his personal truth is not obvious to him until the very end of the film.

The Muppets, having rescued Gonzo and Rizzo, are greeted by a crowd of soul-searching extraterrestrial enthusiasts in the final setting of the film. An experimental Grammy-winning instrumental track — Billy Preston’s “Outa-Space” — sets the scene. Preston’s discography spreads the message of love for yourself and for your neighbor. While “Outa-Space” has no lyrics, the spirit of the song is seen in the high-energy devotees who follow Gonzo. On his journey, Gonzo has unintentionally brought people closer together. The crowds’ who share interest in his story amplify it in defiance of those who would silence him. The feeling is electric. 

Gonzo meets his alien family, and in doing so, he realizes the truth. It feels great to know where you come from, but your origin does not define you; Only you can define you. “It’s Your Thing” by the Isley Brothers is the final song in the soundtrack.

“I’m not trying to run your life /

I know you wanna, you wanna do what’s right /

So give your love to whoever you choose /

How can you lose with the stuff you use?”

In the end, Gonzo can see his real family is made of the ones he loves and those who love him. He exists as part of a community of Muppets. In choosing to stay with them instead of traveling to the stars, he finally knows himself. 

Muppets From Space is not a blockbuster. It won’t go down in the annals of film history as anything revolutionary. This film may be packed full of cameos and cliches — my favorite is the Really Big Gun™. Still, there is lots to love about it. Its funky, fun soundtrack reminds us to live life according to our own rules. Our time on this Earth is limited, and we have only so much love to give. Choosing how and when to love is perhaps the most important choice we have. 

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Robbie Sullivan, Writer
Robbie Sullivan (he/him) is a physics major at Michigan State University graduating in May of 2024. As a volunteer at the Impact, he loves beat-making, creative writing, audio mixing and all kinds of music. When he isn’t in tears from struggling with calculus, he is probably listening to some ‘70s funk, ‘80s rock or even some ‘90s grunge. Beyond music, he enjoys the great outdoors and being in nature. Kayaking, mountain biking and hiking are his favorite hobbies. “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” - Carl Sagan

Comments (0)

All Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest