Twelve Days of Muppet Christmas/Epiphany 2018: “The Christmas Toy”–Allegory versus Applicability

DANNY HORN:  Hey, did I ever tell you about my theory that Mew’s death is a metaphor for AIDS? It’s 1986, and gay men are dying all over the place. The creators are TV puppet people from New York and LA, so obviously a lot of their friends are dying. So in this special, you get Mew — the despised, unfairly judged cat-toy — dying suddenly. Rugby realizes how precious Mew is… but he figures it out too late. […] Then the fantasy is that the dead loved one can be resurrected and vindicated, just through the power of love and Christmas. You can see how this was an appealing fantasy for artsy people in 1986.
KYNAN BARKER:  Did I ever tell you MY theory that sometimes a kids’ TV special is just a kids’ TV special?

–ToughPigs.com, “My Week with Another Christmas – Day Two: Doll Be Home for Christmas,”  December 24, 2003.

Today is Epiphany, so I wanted to do not only a Christmas-themed article but one with some real substance to it, and this 14-year-old conversation about The Christmas Toy is a good jumping-off point for a discussion of allegory versus applicability.

An allegory is a detailed, in-depth metaphor that represents a situation or event in the real world.  Authors who write allegory are usually not very subtle about the point they’re trying to get across.  For example, I would consider A Christmas Carol to be an allegory:  There’s not much to speculate about what the three spirits represent; it’s right there in their names.

On the other hand, a work has applicability if it can support multiple interpretations, regardless of what the author’s intention may have been.  As J.R.R. Tolkien explained it, “I think that many confuse ‘applicability’ with ‘allegory’; but one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other resides in the purposed domination of the author.”  Tolkien ran up against this attitude often when Lord of the Rings fans would ask him questions about the allegorical meaning of the novels, to which he would respond that there was none, but that it was applicable to many real-life situations or events.

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Twelfth Day of Muppet Christmas: VMX and “Everyone Matters”

Today I want to talk about It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, or “VMX” for short.

Now, VMX is not my favorite Muppet thing ever, not by a long shot.  But I would forgive anybody just about anything for the sake of “Everyone Matters,” a beautiful song from the special:

I love this song, partially because it gives such good Sad-Gonzo.  Sad-Gonzo is my favorite Gonzo.  As far as I’m concerned, the worst thing that ever happened to Gonzo’s character is when his eyelids became mobile and he could change expressions.

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Tenth Day of Muppet Christmas: “It’s in Every One of Us to Be Wise”

It may not be readily apparent, but as this Christmas-to-Epiphany season wears on, I can sort of feel myself becoming snarkier and more sarcastic.

But if there were ever a sure-fire cure for feeling grumpy and cynical, it would be Robin the Frog singing “It’s in Every One of Us”:

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Eighth Day of Muppet Christmas: “Thankful Heart”

Happy New Year!  As I look back on 2017, it seems to me that: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”  

Notwithstanding numerous references, however, The Muppets have yet to do an adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities, but we can acknowledge Mr. Dickens with another scene from Muppet Christmas Carol:

I would be remiss to post this video and not say a “thank you” or two…  

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Sixth Day of Muppet Christmas: A Sesame Street Christmas Pageant

Generally speaking, I try to be an open-minded, nonjudgmental kind of person.  Nevertheless, I do have my pet peeves, and one of them is nonhuman depictions of the Nativity.

So by all rights, I should be really, REALLY offended by this sketch…and yet, I am not.  Why not?  Am I a hypocrite in addition to being a heretic?

Well…possibly.  But in this case, I think it’s the metafictional aspect that makes all the difference.  This is a story about a bunch of characters putting on a Nativity pageant.  Bert may be playing the role of Joseph, but the point of the sketch is not to persuade me to willingly suspend disbelief and convince myself that he is Joseph and not Bert.  The humor in the sketch stems from the fact that he is still unmistakably, undeniably Bert even while trying to play the role of Joseph while valiantly fighting off an attack of hayfever.

Fifth Day of Muppet Christmas: “The Bells of Fraggle Rock”

As much as I love this episode of Fraggle Rock–and I do–I nevertheless have some questions about it:

Why did Gobo assume that the “Great Bell” was something that he’d be able to carry back home?  Doesn’t “Great Bell” kind of imply something that’s large and heavy?

When Gobo and Wembley saw that the cave was bell-shaped on the map, why did it never occur to them that perhaps the cave is the Great Bell rather than simply containing the Great Bell?  That’s immediately where my mind went.

Whatever happened to the Weebabeast, anyway?  They introduce this whole implied mythos about the Weebabeast, and then we never hear about it again.  I feel cheated.

Why does everyone think that Cantus is so cryptic?  He makes perfect sense to me.

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First Day of Muppet Christmas: Bert and Ernie’s sacrificial giving

Merry Christmas, all!  I have tears in my eyes as I share this classic Sesame sketch.  I was going to talk about it, but what can I say that hasn’t already been said?  There’s no improving on perfection.

“Here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.”

–O. Henry, “The Gift of the Magi” 

 

 

Twelve Days of Muppet Christmas

A lot of people seem to have the mistaken notion that the “12 days of Christmas” refers to the week and a half or so leading up to Christmas.  To be fair, I used to think the same thing.

Traditionally, however, according to the church calendar, the Christmas season starts on Christmas Day and continues for 12 days until January 6th, which is the feast day of the three kings, otherwise known–and I swear I am not making this up–as “Epiphany“.

I knew I wanted to do some kind of twelve-day event to celebrate not only the Christmas season but the Muppets’ longstanding tradition of creating Christmas content.  Originally, I wanted to look at and review 12 different Muppet Christmas productions, but I didn’t have time to do justice to them this year, so that will have to wait until next year.  Instead, I’m going to look at snippets of Muppet Christmas things and talk about them as appropriate.

I know that some people tend to get Christmassed out by the time Christmas actually gets here.  I empathize with that; last year my family had Christmas a week early, as my brother was here in town for a concert.  Subsequently, someone in the grocery store asked me if I was ready for Christmas, and I said something to the effect of: “For me, Christmas is already over.”

Nevertheless, there is an apropos song to apply to this situation that is from a Muppet production even though it doesn’t have any actual Muppets in it:

My intention is to keep Christmas with me, and share it with you, for at least a week and a half.