“What would Jim Henson do?”
Before I embark on my Muppet blogging journey, I have to consider this question carefully, along with all that it implies.
I think the question itself is a good question to ask, not only for us Muppet fans but for everybody. If more people would ask themselves that question, it would go a long way towards solving a lot of problems in the world.
But while I think asking the question is a useful exercise, I also think that we Muppet fans set ourselves up for disappointment when we convince ourselves that we know the answer. And when we start informing others that we know what the answer is–what the answer must be–that’s when we start getting into real trouble.
We Muppet fans are clairvoyants–or, at least, we’d like to believe we are. We’ve all made lofty claims about what Jim Henson would say or do in a particular situation. We’ve all confidently expressed what Jim would think of one Muppet project or another. And amazingly enough, “Jim Henson’s” opinion on the given topic always seems to align perfectly with our own opinion of it. What an unbelievable coincidence!
Of course, what we assert so confidently as “Jim Henson’s” opinion doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with Jim at all. It’s often only a reflection of our own views that we ascribe to Jim Henson in order to validate our opinions to others–and perhaps to ourselves. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m as guilty of this as anyone; however, while it may be misguidedly intended as a token of respect, ultimately it is unfair to Jim because he’s not around to defend himself or assert his own opinions anymore.
My point is that no human being can ever really know what’s in the heart and mind of another; the best that any of us can ever do is make an educated guess. Granted, some people have more information with which to inform an opinion because they knew Jim personally, and their conclusions can be given more weight than those of the random Muppet fan. Nevertheless, none of them are infallible–not the people who worked with Jim or even members of his own family.
So what am I driving at with all this? If you and I, hypothetical reader, are going to journey together down this path of Muppet probosculation, I must lay a charge on myself and one on you. I charge myself always to think twice whenever I’m tempted to make an assertion about what Jim Henson would say or think or do, to ask myself, “do I really believe that this is what Jim would think, or is this really just what I think?” And if I ever do conjecture about what Jim would think or say or do, I charge myself to back it up with evidence (i.e., quotations, interviews, etc.) whenever possible, with the knowledge that even the evidence available to me may be incomplete or misleading.
As for you, hypothetical reader, I charge you to listen critically, read critically, and think critically about the things that people say about Jim Henson–regardless of who they are or how closely they may be related to Jim. Whenever someone claims to know what Jim Henson would say or do or think–whether it’s a member of the Henson family, a former co-worker of Jim’s, a random fan, or even a Muppet blogger like me–I charge you not to take it blindly at face value. First, consider the source; second, see how it fits with what we already know to be true about Jim.