Happytime Murders Innocence: Why Viewers are Truly Furious

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In a time when adults are now going to Disney World on their honeymoon rather than as a family vacation with children, Hollywood is finding out the hard way that audience members do not like it when innocent characters from their childhood get corrupted and warped into an R-rated film.

Unfortunately, taking children’s movie/TV show cartoon characters and using them to create R-rated material has gained popularity among movie producers. According to BBC, a recent trend has arisen with creating fake children’s shows disguised as the real program.

“One disturbing Peppa [the] Pig fake, found by journalist Laura June, shows a dentist with a huge syringe pulling out the character’s teeth as she screams in distress,” said The Daily Mail.

June describes accidentally viewing the video with her young daughter next to her, and was immediately disgusted. “It’s just way, way off what a three-year-old should watch,” she told Daily Mail.

The channel that posts these Peppa Pig videos also produced vulgar videos featuring Minions, Doc McStuffins and several Disney characters. While this is upsetting, it has always been on smaller platforms like YouTube. However, this trend has now moved to the big screen in the form of “The Happytime Murders.”

On May 18, 2018, the official trailer was released for the film which was directed be Brian Henson, the son of original Muppets creator, Jim Henson. Starring comedy icons Melissa McCarthy and Maya Rudolph, “The Happytime Murders” tells the story of two detectives on the hunt for puppet murderers during the 1980s in a crime-ridden Los Angeles.

McCarthy stars in the lead role as Detective Connie Edwards whose partner is a puppet detective. While the film does not refer to the non-human characters as “Muppets,” but rather puppets, it’s hard to ignore the Muppet-like design of the characters.

And if that wasn’t enough of an allusion to the beloved children’s show, the film confirmed suspicions with the tagline of the movie which is, “No sesame. All street.” This is what attracted the attention of the Sesame Workshop, who filed a lawsuit against the upcoming film which said that, “Sesame seeks to enjoin Defendants’ deliberate effort to appropriate its SESAME STREET mark, and its trusted brand and goodwill, to promote their R-rated movie, The Happytime Murders, by way of a violent and sexually-explicit trailer.”

In response to the lawsuit, Henson hired a puppet lawyer to face Sesame Workshop in court. While Sesame Workshop did lose the lawsuit, giving the film permission to continue with their tagline and intended release date, many viewers are still not happy with the outcome or trailer.

Many people have taken to Twitter to express their disgust with the trailer which featured murder, violence, cursing, inappropriate language, drug use and explicit sexual activity, to name a few.

This obviously isn’t the first time cartoons have included extremely mature content. There have been several TV shows and movies such as “Family Guy,” “South Park” and “Sausage Party” that were definitely not made for children. However, there wasn’t this same level of outrage from audiences upon their release.

This is possibly due to the fact that these cartoons were never wholesome or innocent to begin with. The issue here isn’t that puppets are being made “adult,” it’s the Muppet association with these inappropriate characters that seems to be making people uncomfortable.

What this trailer release seems to be revealing about its audience is that a line has been drawn. Audiences can accept that cartoons, puppets, etc. can be used in adult context as long as the specific characters used did not derive from their childhood.

For instance, viewers accept the crudeness from a character such as Stewie from “Family Guy” because he has been inappropriate since his creation. However, if a film took a character that was initially created in an innocent light such as Winnie the Pooh or Mickey Mouse, audience members would most likely take great offense, as they are now with “The Happytime Murders.”

Many complaints have not been about the concern for children, but rather adults getting upset that something from their childhood that was once innocent is now being tainted and made corrupt. This should definitely be a learning point for Hollywood, that audiences do not react well when you mess with their childhood characters. There aren’t many innocent things in the world, and those few things that are should be left alone.

Elizabeth Nouryeh

Writer for Hers Magazine. Poet. Lover of words. Bears, beets, Battlestar Galactica.

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