An Open Letter to Matt Vogel

Dear Matt,

You don’t know me, but if you read Steve Whitmire’s blog at all, I often comment over there.

First of all, I wanted to wish you a happy birthday.  When it was Steve’s birthday recently, I wished him a happy birthday on his blog, and I sent good wishes into the ether for Jim Henson, and even though you’re not part of their “birthday club,” I didn’t want you to feel left out.  I hope you have a very happy and special day.

Secondly, I wanted to apologize to you; as I’m sure you understand, this whole situation with Disney letting Steve go from the Muppets is very upsetting to me.  I’ve never been very good at pigeonholing my emotions, and writing (whether it be on a blog or elsewhere) is often the “safe” medium into which I channel my negative thoughts and feelings.  Unfortunately, there are times when I’ve been lashing out at Disney and you’ve sort of gotten caught in the crossfire, as it were.  If I seem angry, I want you to know that I never meant to take it out on you

(And if you spend any time on my blog, you’ll notice that I often express myself through song lyrics or paraphrases thereof.)

Matt, I believe that you, yourself, are a soul whose intentions are good.  I am angry at Disney for deciding to recast Kermit for what I believe to be no good reason at all, but I don’t have any animosity or ill will towards you for agreeing to perform the role.  I trust that you only did what you thought best, and I have nothing but respect for that, because that’s really all that any of us can do.

I have empathy for you, Matt, because I know how it feels to be in a situation, not of one’s own making, in which one is forced to compromise one’s principles and question one’s loyalties.  In fact, I suspect that your motives are purer and more noble than mine ever were.  My intuition tells me that you’ve complied with Disney’s wishes out of a conscientious desire to salvage and preserve what’s left of Jim Henson’s Muppet legacy.  My motives for sticking with a suboptimal ethical situation were more prideful, and arguably more selfish.  

When your first Kermit performance was unveiled, I made a very funny–but not very sensitive–satirical comment in which I said, “Here’s the new Kermit video!” but instead I posted the video of Constantine singing “I’ll Get You What You Want” from Muppets Most Wanted.  On the surface of it, it looked like I was trying to make the point that your Kermit sounded like Constantine, but I intended there to be deeper meanings underneath that.

I’ll get to those deeper meanings in a moment, but first I want to assure you that your Kermit doesn’t sound like Constantine to me anymore.  That was probably as much a matter of my brain being conditioned to interpret a particular voice in a particular way when presented in a particular context.  And while I can’t entirely accept your Kermit as Kermit yet, I think I can see myself getting to the point where I could accept it.  I don’t necessarily regard him as just a “simula-Kerm” anymore.

Anyway, I intended that video not as a dig on you but a critique of Disney.  I used that song, “I’ll Get You What You Want,” specifically because that’s what Disney seems to be telling us Muppet fans all the time: “if you are good, if you keep quiet, if you do as we say and accept our decisions unquestioningly, eventually you will be rewarded.” I believe that’s why they haven’t released the Muppet Show seasons 4 and 5 on DVD yet, because they’re using them as leverage in order to manipulate us.

But the other reason why I used that particular song is because I really love that song, and particularly your performance of it.  This is sort of awkward to say to you since I don’t really know you at all, but your voice on that song is like smooth, delicious, creamy caramel.  Let me put it to you this way: if I were Miss Piggy, I wouldn’t trust myself around Constantine if he were singing to me like that.

I notice that you haven’t spoken out publicly about the casting change; I don’t know whether that’s your personal choice or Disney’s edict, but either way I completely respect it.  Nevertheless, I hope you have somebody you can trust with whom you can privately discuss your feelings about it, whether it be a friend or a family member, a colleague or a counselor.  

Once again, I wish you a very happy birthday, and I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive the unintentional missteps of a humble but very enthusiastic fan.

All the best,
Mary Arlene

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