The following article is not critique or even really an essay, but rather it’s more of a loosely structured musing on the nature of The Muppets and an exploration on why they matter so much to me. I typically don’t post personal details on this site, but this piece will fit outside that norm because really that’s the only way I can discuss a topic so dear to my heart like the Muppets.
I love the Muppets. In fact I more than love them, I’m obsessed with them. I’ve watched their various shows and movies countless times on repeat. Kermit the Frog was easily one of my top five role models as a kid. He was the perfect hero to look up to. Kind, caring, smart, funny, and always in control (well to the best degree you can with that gang). Muppets also played an important role in developing my sense of humor, as they were my very first introduction to meta comedy, a love affair that I continue today with the TV show Community. Even at a young age I was amazed by the very idea of an entire show being about putting on a show and that The Muppet Movie features the characters watching the movie themselves was revolutionary to me as a kid.
As I grew up my love of Muppets never died; in fact it’s only grown stronger. My junior year of high school I co-wrote a Muppets script for my high school’s one acts competition (sadly my love of Muppets wasn’t shared by my classmates so I ended up adapting Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog in its place). In my senior year a friend and I were hired by my town to make an anti-drugs and alcohol video; naturally my first thought was to have it star a muppet. I mentioned it to them offhand and they laughed thinking it was a joke. A week later later we came back with a detailed pitch including mock ups of the muppet, and the next day they ordered it. That was my first paid job. The Muppets even found a way to play into my love life, as to celebrate my six month anniversary with my girlfriend last spring we went to a Muppet movie marathon at a local theatre. To say I hold the Muppets very dear to me would be putting it simply.
Because of that I will never comprehend a human being who doesn’t like the Muppets, and thankfully I’ve yet to run into anyone with those feelings. I’ve only met one person who claimed to not like them, but then it turned out they love Fraggle Rock, proving that yes they do indeed like muppets. Sure there are people that think the degree of my love is weird, but I think I can pretty clearly say there’s not a single person who flat out hates muppets (except maybe the original Saturday Night Live members, but that’s a whole different story). The Muppets speak to the child inside everyone, able to tap into a part of us most people have shut off long ago.
It’s truly extraordinary to have The Muppets, a movie based on the ideals of sweetness and good nature, come out in 2011. We live now in age ruled mostly by cynicism. The internet is one big springboard for complaining, our economy is worse than it’s been in years, and Hollywood keeps insisting films be grittier and grittier. And in face of all that The Muppets was created to bring the characters, without any reinvention, into the modern day; a film that captures the spirit and tone the property was famous for.
When press attended The Muppets for a behind the scenes visit no one was ever allowed to view the muppets when they weren’t being used. A black sheet was placed over them whenever a muppeteer wasn’t in control that way nothing could ruin the illusion of them being alive. And the trick works. Despite living in a time where computers can make nearly photorealistic animation, there is still more emotion in that felt frog than in any CGI character I’ve ever seen. It never comes off as an effect, but rather as magic. And really there’s no other word that better describes the Muppets than magic.
But recently for me The Muppets has been a source of stress in my life. And that stress has been resisting the urge to see an advance screening of the movie. One of the biggest perks I’ve found to living in a major city has been the easy access to free advance screenings of films, and in the past few days there have been two screenings of The Muppets I’ve had easy access to. A good portion of my close friends flocked to these screenings and have prompted me to come along, but I’ve had to stay strong and say no.
The reason being I made a pact with my brother the day the movie was announced back in 2008 that we’d make sure the first time we the saw film we’d be together. You see my brother, like me, is a diehard Muppets fan. He’s the very person who introduced them to me; who got me to watch The Muppet Show, Muppets Tonight, and the original movies. He was right there next to me when Muppets Treasure Island came out in theaters, and once again when Muppets From Space was released. Watching Muppet movies together were a tradition, albeit one that’s been missing for twelve long years. With an eight year age gap between us at a certain point it in my childhood it became harder to connect with my brother, but the Muppets were always a shared bond no matter what age we were at.
I could’ve been at the theatre laughing, smiling, and probably crying a little (Muppets make me sentimental ok), but instead I stayed in my room writing this. Because that’s what Kermit the Frog would want. Because waiting to see it with my brother who I love is, quite simply, the Muppet thing to do. The very basis of the Muppets is that they are a group of eccentric outsiders who banded together to make their dream of entertaining others come true, and in doing that they became one big happy family. At their core muppets are never selfish or mean, hurtful or cruel; but rather they’re caring first and foremost. They’re a bunch of lovers and dreamers; banded together through the Rainbow Connection that links us all.
In my life there’s few people I’m closer to in that Rainbow Connection than my older brother. The opening song from the The Muppets sings “Life’s a happy song when there’s someone by my side to sing along.” And for me there’s no one else I’d rather sing along with to the Muppets than my brother.
[kyte.tv appKey=MarbachViewerEmbedded&uri=channels/388452/1506099&tbid=352096&p=&height=436&width=416] “Life’s a Happy Song” from The Muppets