Ted Rensum to Kermit the Frog, September 1977

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You ought to be ashamed of yourself. Pigs don’t go into space at all!

Dear Mr. the Frog

I am very upset with your recent episode of “The Muppet Show.” To put it plainly, your show is filth. There is nothing socially redeeming about it. I’m not sure exactly what country you think you’re in, but this is the United States of America, not the hedonistic days of the Roman Empire. The amount of sex, drugs, and infernal music is nothing short of scandalous.

Imagine my surprise when I tune in to watch a lovely variety show in the vein of classic (and clean) American institutions like Lawrence Welk, and instead I’m bombarded with your disgusting mess. I watched your star, Miss Piggy (is “she” a he, by the way? I wandered into a nightclub in the West Village once and saw some similar filth.) basically attempt to throw herself at your “special guest” (a perverted euphemism if I’ve ever heard one). I watched a chicken initiate romantic relations with an anteater. Why must you promote this horrible miscegenation?

If you do not turn around your act and do something decent, I will report you to the House Committee on Unamerican Activities, which I’m pretty sure still exists. You are a disgrace to frogs everywhere.

Yours disgruntledly,

Theodore L. Rensum

Analysis:

Ted Rensum is a bit of a legend here at History of the Letter Towers. Before his death in a Slurpee accident in 2006, he wrote hundreds or even thousands of complaint letters to fictional characters. Starting at 8 years old in 1951 with a letter complaining that Flash Gordon was a communist, he wrote to every major American fictional character in the latter half of the 20th century. He called Rocky and Bullwinkle “nothing more than long-haired hooliganism run amok.” He famously wrote that Mary Tyler Moore was “a trollop and a strumpet.” He called the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles “Advocates for race-mixing and homosexuality, especially Raphael.” He is a true legend of the field.

Of course, people have been writing letters to fictional characters since the beginning. Among the dead sea scrolls was found a long screed to one of Lot’s daughters asking for a nude painting. Roman school children often wrote to Dido of the Aeneid asking the same thing. Sherlock Holmes was inundated with requests for help solving household mysteries, as well as marriage proposals. But it was in America, with its unique blend of mass media and concentrated pockets of crazy people, that the letter to fictional characters really hit its stride.

Today, a common form of protest is to complain to fictional characters. Glenn Beck, for example, attempted to tilt the balance of the 2008 election to the Republicans by having his legion of followers complain to Liz Lemon, the fictional character portrayed by Tina Fey on the show 30 Rock, and Eugene Krabs, owner of the restaurant “The Krusty Krab” on the television documentary Spongebob Squarepants. This year, Herman Cain spent his entire campaign writing letters to various Pokemons, while Newt Gingrich wrote to “Family Guy” housewife Lois Griffin, asking for a date.

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