4 Lighthearted Characters With Hidden Tragic Backstories

Writing kid-friendly characters seems super easy. They can be human, animal, vegetable, mineral, or all of the above, as long as they’re over the top and have at least one catchphrase. Really, the only thing they shouldn’t be is secretly depressing, because nobody wants to laugh at a silly cartoon dog or whatever, only to find out later that the dog did time for a fatal DUI. And yet, if you look into the official backstories of some of the goofiest characters out there, you will find that …

4Miss Piggy Was A Neglected Child With A Dead Father

The Muppets have gone through a lot of changes over the years. Cookie Monster used to work for IBM. Kermit used to straight up murder dudes. Gonzo used to NOT f**k chickens. But the point is that even before the Muppets were Muppets, they were still over-the-top and whimsical. Then there’s Miss Piggy.

According to Piggy’s creator, Frank Oz, he originally imagined the famous, anger-prone pig prima donna as, in his words, “a truck driver who wanted to be a woman.” But after apparently deciding that the world wasn’t ready for that, he came up with a different biography that would remind children that life is a series of gut-wrenching tragedies. He decided that Miss Piggy’s father had tragically died, and that her mother had neglected her.

This never made it into any official Muppet media, but was apparently something Oz had in the back of his mind while portraying Miss Piggy. Meaning that whenever she was singing on stage, Oz was channeling the pain of her father dying in a tractor accident. When she was abusive to Kermit, Oz kept thinking about how her mother was mean to her because she had too many kids and was barely coping with her family situation, and how this caused Piggy to develop severe insecurities that in later life manifested as uncontrollable rage.

Oh, and according to a 1993 Larry King interview (with Miss Piggy), she and her mother still aren’t on speaking terms. (In other news, Larry King once interviewed a Muppet, probably while seriously rethinking all of his life choices.) More importantly, though, Oz also revealed something much darker about Miss Piggy. Namely, that when she was young, she ran away from home and moved to New York, where she had to do “some things she wasn’t proud of.” He clarified that she appeared in a bacon commercial, as if something so existentially horrifying is better than what we were all picturing before.

Related: The 3 Most Depressing Minor Characters In Famous Movies

3Silicon Valley’s Jared Has A Long, Horrific Backstory

The biggest joke about Zach Woods’ Jared Dunn on HBO’s Silicon Valley was when a crazy billionaire pointed at him and said, with total confidence, “This guy fucks,” and then it turned out that he did. The reason it was so funny is that Jared is always so meek, proper, and awkward. When his previous boss called him “Jared,” he didn’t have the conviction to correct him, and just went by that name from then on. His real name is Donald. Or at least, he thinks so.

But that humorous personality hides something much darker. Throughout the show, we get hints of Jared’s rough childhood, conveyed in a dark series of running jokes and horrifyingly vague references. (“Look, I know what it’s like to only be able to rescue half your family.”) But it’s only when you read the character’s official blog, created as a tie-in for the show, that you get the full picture of what he’s been through.

When writing about how his company recently went through some problems, Jared wrote: “Sometimes a great legal mind fallen on hard times is willing to waive their fee! Sometimes California Child Protective Services makes an unannounced visit at precisely the right time!” In a later post, he said: “Erlich is still not charging me rent, which could not be said of … the attics and semi-enclosed porches of my childhood, which I paid for with endless, backbreaking chores and things no child should see. But I digress!” He even writes that for a long time in his life, he went by the name “

That’s pretty dark, even for a show that featured T.J. Miller beating the s**t out some drug-dealing children.

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