Slate reporter Dahlia Lithwick has covered an array of important Supreme Court decisions over the years, but she wrote her seminal work in 2012.
It was called “A Unified Theory of Muppet Types,” and she argued every living human can be classified into one of two categories: Chaos Muppets (which include Gonzo, Animal, and Fozzie Bear) or Order Muppets (like Bert, Kermit the Frog, and Sam the Eagle).
“I just want to be super clear,” Lithwick said on Nerdette. “I covered Bush v. Gore. I covered the Fisher affirmative action case. I covered District of Columbia v. Heller — the gun case. By far and away, the most important piece of writing I’ve ever done was Muppet Theory.”
Lithwick and Nerdette host Tricia Bobeda performed the perilous task of assigning all nine Supreme Court justices with a corresponding Muppet. The results are below.
Then, we spoke with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s personal trainer, Bryant Johnson, about RBG’s hardcore workout routine.
On what Muppet Theory is
Dahlia Lithwick: I think the genesis of the piece is that I have two sons. One is a Chaos Muppet. One is an Order Muppet. And it is completely clear to me that everything you need to know in life is: If you are closer to Cookie Monster, Fozzie Bear, Ernie of Ernie and Bert, then you are probably a Chaos Muppet who sows chaos in the world.
If you are closer to Kermit the Frog — the most compulsive of the Muppets — or Scooter, you are probably an Order Muppet.
And once you know that about yourself, you can figure out who you need to marry and you can figure out your job. So I made the mistake of writing that piece — I may have been drunk when I wrote it — and the rest is history.
Chief Justice John Roberts
Lithwick: John Roberts is, I think, an Order Muppet. I think John Roberts might have that Statler and Waldorf — I think he’s got some of that. He cares. He’s sort of in it, but watching it. He cares about the institution. He’s the big picture guy.
I don’t know between Statler and Waldorf where I would put him on the Statler and Waldorf continuum, but I think he’s those guys.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor
Lithwick: I think she is just a big bundle of love. She is certainly the huggiest justice. And I think she brings some rare chaos to the court. So I think Fozzie.
Justice Anthony Kennedy
Lithwick: Anthony Kennedy is the eagle. He’s Sam the Eagle, no doubt. Give me a harder one.
Justice Clarence Thomas
Lithwick: Clarence Thomas is really hard. This is hard to do without a lot of studying, but I think Clarence Thomas might be Beaker. Complicated — psychologically very, very complicated man — I’m going with Beaker.
Justice Elena Kagan
Lithwick: She’s certainly the closest thing to a “You knoooow. Soooooo.” She moves her head in that way. I’m gonna make her Jan.
Justice Stephen Breyer
Lithwick: Breyer is such a Chaos Muppet. For Breyer, I would go with probably Ernie. Propensity to sort of blurt out and then realize, “Maybe I shouldn’t have said that.”
Justice Neil Gorsuch
Lithwick: Talk about a Chaos Muppet. He is bringing havoc everywhere he goes. Have I done the Swedish Chef yet? I think he’s the Swedish Chef.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Lithwick: I happen to be looking at an image of Miss Piggy with pearls and gloves and a neck thing made out of what looks like leopard skin, and that is really how Ginsburg dresses. Ginsburg dresses like Ginger from Gilligan’s Island. So let’s go with Miss Piggy.
Justice Samuel Alito
Lithwick: A little umbrage-y, but heart in the right place. I’m going with Kermit.
This is very hard. I’m going to live to regret this. I’m going to get strongly worded emails from the justices. I’m going with Kermit.
HOMEWORK: Learn from Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s personal trainer
Bryant Johnson: It always starts like this: She walks in. I’m already there. Newshour is probably already on. My greeting is always, “Hey justice, how you doing?” And depending on how she responds, I take an assessment, and from that assessment I adjust the workout, and then I adapt the workout to what’s going on.
We start off with our warmup either on the elliptical or the treadmill. Nine times out of 10, it’s on the elliptical. Warming up, get the heart rate going a bit. Like to get the blood flowing. Once the blood’s flowing, like to get some rotational exercises, then some stretching exercises, and then we start hitting it.
Start with the chest press, to the leg extensions, to the leg curls, to the pull downs, to the rows, to the flys, to the kickbacks, to the one-legged squats. Then we do a little abductor, adductor, then we do a little glut work for the gluteus maximus. Then we kick into the pushups.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the “play” button to listen to the entire conversation, which was produced and adapted for the web by Justin Bull.