Sesame Saturday: Episode 2096–Retrospective on a Revelation

“When Snuffy wasn’t being used, cables were attached to his head and back and he was hoisted 40 feet in the air, where he was out of the way and safe. […] What made this so much fun was that in those days, we had a lot of kids on the show […] Many of these kids spotted Snuffy hanging overhead.  When they did, they went nuts!  Kids would grab the leg of the nearest adult and yell, ‘Look!  Look!  It’s the Snuffle-upagus!’  And, the adult response was always the same: ‘Aw, c’mon, kid.  You can’t fool me.  There’s no such thing as a Snuffle-upagus.'”
                  –Joseph A. Bailey, demonstrating the sadistic attitude of the adults on Sesame Street in the ’70s and early ’80s in his book, Memoirs of a Muppet Writer.

Someone once asked Street Gang author Michael Davis, in an interview that seems to have become lost among the shifting sands of the Internet, what was the most significant episode of Sesame Street.  

I thought about the question myself and I decided that, for me, there’s an objective answer and a subjective answer.  The objective answer is the same that Davis gave, the death of Mr. Hooper.  But the subjective answer, for me, is the episode in which Snuffy was revealed to be nonimaginary, which aired 32 years ago on November 18, 1985.  I was five years old at the time, and I was watching.

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Sesame Saturday: Sesame Street Trumps Donald Trump

“There is one source that has always recognized Trump for being the absolute villain that he obviously is and that’s Sesame Street. Sesame Street has been touting the dangers of a Trump Presidency since the late eighties!”
 –Louie Pearlman, “Make America HATE Again: Ronald Grump on Sesame Street,” ToughPigs.com, January 29, 2016.

This is an excellent article that appeared on ToughPigs just before the 2016 primaries…so, almost two years ago?  Oh, how time flies when you’re in constant mortal dread for the future of humanity!  Anyway, the article is well worth a read, but I had a few thoughts to add from the perspective of being almost a year into the Orange Muggle Voldemort presidency.

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“We will march against the mighty; we will march against the strong”

“Why are you wasting your time with those puppets?” asked Rudy Pugliese, one of Jim Henson’s college professors.

I sometimes hear a similar question in my head: “Our democracy is imperiled, our Constitution is in crisis; why are you wasting your time worrying about the integrity of a bunch of puppets?”

To which the short answer is, in the words of Cantus, “No time is wasted time.”

Yes, the Muppets are puppets; that is undeniable, and it would be pointless and silly of me to argue otherwise.  But they are so much more than that.  They are symbols; they are fuzzy mirrors in which we see our own flaws and foibles reflected; they are useful rhetorical tools with which one can make subtle arguments against injustice and demagoguery in a nonthreatening way.  In the words of Steve Whitmire, “These characters stand for all of us, and we’re worth defending.” (my emphasis)

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“Steve Whitmire Saturday” (The Muppet Mindset: September 5, 2009)

In 2009, Disney briefly replaced Steve Whitmire as Kermit for a few appearances, most notably on America’s Got Talent. I was curious about what the mainstream Muppet fansites thought about that at the time, so I went digging through the archives and found this gem by Muppet Mindset founder Ryan Dosier about why Steve should not be replaced:

Steve Whitmire is Kermit the Frog, and Muppet fans should fight for whatever they must to keep it that way.”

Oh, what a difference eight years makes!

But Ryan got it exactly right in 2009, and good on him for it. I don’t know if he still stands by what he said back then.  Nevertheless, everything that he said back then is as relevant and true now as it was when he originally wrote it eight years ago. 

(Except the part about Steve being “scraggly-haired” in the ’70s; the available evidence suggests that he was, in fact, meticulously coiffed according to the style of the times.)

Also of interest is that our old frenemesis “Anonymous” makes an appearance in the comments section, up to his old tricks (although back then they might have been new tricks) of trashing Steve relentlessly, without regard for either facts or feelings. How far back in time does this ridiculous grudge go anyway? Dude, get a life!

The Muppet Mindset

The year was 1978. A 19-year old, scraggly-haired, tall, lanky puppeteer approached a bin of puppets. These weren’t just any puppets, mind you, these were the Muppets. This young man had his wish granted by truly the greatest genie of all time, Jim Henson. A man who, to this young puppeteer, was on the same plane as John Lennon is to a musician, Albert Einstein is to a physicist, or Thomas Edison to light-bulb enthusiasts. This young man picked up a puppet, came up with  a voice, and was immediately a featured player on The Muppet Show. The most widely aired show ever.

This young puppeteer was named Steve Whitmire, and this is his Saturday.

STEVE WHITMIRE

Main Characters…

Kermit the Frog (1990-still)
Rizzo the Rat
Beaker (1991-still)
Statler (2002-still)
Ernie (1990-still)
Wembley Fraggle
Sprocket

Secondary Characters…
Foo Foo
Lips
Marlon Fraggle
Bean Bunny
Waldo C. Graphic
The Muppet Newsman…

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Fraggle Friday–“Why?”

In my opinion, this beautiful song from Mokey is one of Fraggle Rock‘s most underrated.

This song is from the episode “The Preachification of Convincing John,” which I always think is something of a misnomer.  I mean, obviously Convincing John is in it, and he does preachify (or whatever the verb form would be), but it’s really a story about Mokey, and Convincing John is pretty incidental it.

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It’s Not Easy Being the Last Jedi

You don’t want to admit how possessive you’ve become [of Luke Skywalker]. There are times where you go, ‘Really? That’s what they think of Luke? I’m not only in disagreement‚ I’m insulted.’ But that’s the process and you thrash it all out.”
                            —Mark Hamill

Watch your back, Mark.  Star Wars is a Disney property now, and at Disney, nothing is sacred, everyone is expendable, and expressing opinions about a character you’ve played and/or been associated with for decades is considered “unacceptable business conduct.”  If Kermit the flippin’ Frog is fair game, so is Luke Skywalker.

(Also of interest is the original New York Times article in which the above quotation originally appeared.)

 

Sin of Omission


(Isn’t it miraculous how there seems to be a Fraggle Rock song that fits every occasion?)

Dear Steve, especially…but also friends, readers, “followers,” and people who surfed in here randomly looking for extended metaphors on child care or something…

(To that last group: thank you for stopping by, and I’m sorry that I didn’t have what you were looking for.)

I have a confession to make:

I went to a Halloween party on October 21st dressed “sort of approximately” like Kermit, with the intention of, to paraphrase what I said on October 19th, getting the word out, trying to evoke some “epiphanies” in the casual fans, perhaps spurring them to some kind of action, but at the very least, bringing them into the conversation.

And I failed.  

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Kermit’s Appearance on “Dancing with the Stars”

MY MOM:  You were in kind of high dudgeon [about Kermit’s recast] before.
ME:  Yeah, I still am.
           –Excerpt from phone conversation, October 29, 2017.

Well, it’s been two weeks, so I should really talk about this. 

It’s hard to find good clips of this on YouTube.  Here’s a short, official clip:

Here’s a bootleg clip, which is very tiny and has a flashy background that I think should come with an epilepsy warning:

Some general comments before I get to the Kermit-specific stuff:  Drew Scott’s Miss Piggy impression sounds more like Yoda, which (a) is hilarious, and (b) may have just become my new OTP (Yoda and Kermit, that is).  

During the actual performance, I didn’t like the style of the vocalist that they had singing “Rainbow Connection”–and also she got the words wrong, which really rubs me the wrong way (as my mom could tell you, I’m sorry to say). 

Nevertheless, I’m glad they didn’t have Kermit sing it; it’s still too soon.  Not “Rainbow Connection.”  Not now.  Not yet.  

Also, the fact that they had Kermit judge the dance but that his score didn’t count is strangely ironic and sadly fitting.

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My Perspective on the Aftermath of Jim Henson’s Death

I address myself to the Muppet fans who were either not born yet when Jim Henson died or are too young to remember it:

I’m very impressed with you and the depth of your passion and your dedication and your knowledge of Jim Henson and his work–which, for a variety of reasons, often outstrips my own.

I know that you love Jim Henson, just as we all do.  I know that you grieve for him, and I know that you mourn for the opportunity that you never had to have first-hand knowledge of the time that he spent among us here on Earth.

I was approximately 10 when Jim died, so I have some first-hand knowledge of both his life and his death.  Elsewhere, I’ve discussed his death subjectively; i.e., how I reacted to it and how it affected me, but now I’d like to take sort of a broader, more objective look at the effect that his death had on everybody.

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What Would Walt Disney Do?

(or “WWWDD?”)

I think I was about seven years old when I learned that “Walt Disney” was the name of an actual person.  Prior to that point, I assumed that it was just a meaningless, made up brandname, like “Kodak.”  I bring that up because it seems to me that a lot of people, even–and perhaps especially–those who work for the company itself, sometimes forget that there was a real person behind the name, a man behind the mouse.

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Quiz: Who Said It–Jim Henson, Frank Oz, or Steve Whitmire?

In the renewed interest of reaching out to fans, both casual and mainstream, about my concerns about Disney, the Muppets, and Steve, I created a quiz to see if Muppet fans could correctly identify quotes by Jim, Frank, and Steve.  Please feel free to share it through social media, if you are so inclined:

Who Said It:  Jim Henson, Frank Oz, or Steve Whitmire?

(Please take the quiz before reading any further.  Thank you.)

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Emperor Disney Has No Clothes; or, Attempting to Strike While the Iron Is Hot

I intended (and still intend) to write my own review of Vogel!Kermit’s appearance on Dancing with the Stars on Monday, but I was waiting until I had a chance to talk to my mom about it, because I suspect that she will give me a good sound bite to turn into an opening quote.

But I’m just now hearing about the negative reaction to the appearance on Twitter from the casual Muppet fans, and it is strange and wonderful.

(Here’s the link.  Just watch the video.  Don’t read the little story underneath it; it’s unnecessarily snide and hurtful.)

It’s strange (and a little frustrating) because this issue has consumed my life for three months now, so to see other people just cottoning on now kind of makes me want to scream “Where have you BEEN for the last three months?!?”  But it would be hugely hypocritical of me if I were to scream that because (a) prior to when the news broke in July, Muppets had been a fairly low priority for me and (b) I’m the woman who came 30 years late to the Fraggle party; I can hardly criticize anyone for being a measly three months behind the times.

On the other hand, after three months of rationalizing and justifying from the mainstream Muppet fandom–all the walking on eggshells on the big-name fansites for fear of pissing off Disney–and Tom Bergeron et al. on the show itself pretending that everything is normal, it’s so refreshing to hear people outside of our little die-hard circle of Steve’s loyal fans candidly speak up, like the child in The Emperor’s New Clothes, and say, “What the hell is going on?  That doesn’t sound like Kermit at all!”

I’ve never considered myself a Jeanne D’Arc, and it doesn’t come naturally to make a call to figurative arms, but now might be an opportune moment to try and get the word out about what we know to be true about Steve and Disney.  Now might be a good time to write more letters to the Disney execs.  Now might be a good time to start re-circulating the petition.  Now might be a good time to start talking to the casual fans about our concerns.

At the very least, we should try to gently persuade them to direct their anger where it belongs, toward the suits at Disney and the Muppet Studios, and try to deflect their anger away from Matt.

The mainstream Muppet fandom seems to have largely turned its back on both Steve and us, so now might be a good time to get the word out, to try to evoke some epiphanies in the casual fans, perhaps spur them to some kind of action, but at the very least, bring them into the conversation.

(And for me, it starts on Saturday when I’m going to a Halloween party dressed “sort of approximately” like Kermit.)

Shuffling Priorities

I‘ve been enjoying writing this blog so much, and focusing so much attention on it, that I’ve neglected other life concerns, both personal and professional, to my detriment.  I need to take a step back from the blog and focus my time and researching skills elsewhere, at least for a while.

Ideally, I’d love to be able to post something new every day, but I’m only one person and, with a strict full-time work schedule, I just don’t have the time I’d like to be able to commit to blogging.  So the choice is either to cut down on quantity or quality, and I’m never willing to cut down on quality. 

Which is not to say that I’m taking a break from the blog or absenting myself from it entirely, but I am going to have to slow down the pace at which I publish.  My goal is to produce one substantial blog post per week at the very least.  

We’ll try that and see how it goes.