“With a war of words in the press with the Hensons, Disney executives will never be held accountable for mediocre creative directions that lay at their feet, or for the way I have been treated. After literally refuting every one of Brian’s allegations on paper throughout the night, I cannot bring myself to send it to the media out of respect for Jim. No matter how carefully I frame it, because I know so much about them, it feels like a counterattack that might do real personal damage. […] I will continue to speak about the issues surrounding my dismissal by Disney, but I cannot in good conscience speak against my mentor’s children. It flies in the face of a great man’s philosophy of watching out for each other and loving and forgiving everybody.”
–Steve Whitmire “The Last Few Days, Part 1,” July 22, 2017
Rarely have I seen a better practical, real-life example of someone “turning the other cheek” (cf. Matthew 5:38-39) than this example of Steve refusing to fight back against the unwarranted personal attacks leveled against him by the Henson children. It tells me everything I need to know about who Steve is as a person and completely validates the faith and trust that I have invested in him.
And yet, while I understand and agree with Steve’s personal decision not to retaliate against the Hensons, I nevertheless feel that the Hensons should be held accountable for their words and actions. As responsible adults, we all understand (or, at least, we should understand) that actions have consequences, and one cannot reasonably expect to be held to a different standard due to the high regard in which people hold one’s late father. In fact, it is precisely because of the high regard in which we hold Jim Henson that his children ought to be held to account, because their actions are reflecting badly on him, and he’s no longer able to defend himself or assert his own point of view.
I agree with Steve that it is inappropriate for him to criticize the Hensons, for the reasons that he stated, but I don’t think it necessarily follows that the Hensons should not be criticized at all. If I criticize the Hensons, it is unlikely to turn into a war of words, as I doubt that they would consider refuting me to be worth their time. I have already provided well-reasoned, well-researched criticism of Disney and will continue to do so; therefore, I do not anticipate that anything that I have to say about the Hensons will distract from the Disney critique but rather show it in sharper relief. Moreover, since I do not know the Hensons personally, I doubt very seriously that my criticism of them would have the potential to do “real personal damage.”
Which is not to say that anything and everything about the Hensons is fair game. I have always been mindful of the inexpressible pain that they must have felt, and presumably still feel, about the loss of their father, and I will always try to be sensitive of that, as I always have. And yet, I look to the example of Jon Stewart who, when he was hosting The Daily Show, had a talent for knowing what was foul and what was fair, for calling people on their hypocrisy without hitting below the belt. And if Jon Stewart were still hosting The Daily Show, I would like to think (though, of course, I have no way of knowing) that he would have devoted some time–not a lot of time, mind you, maybe just five minutes of the show on July 17th or July 18th–to go over to camera 3 and say, “Seriously, what the hell, Hensons?”
So that’s what I’m trying to do now. More than that, however, I’m just trying to work through the negative feelings of hurt and betrayal that I myself feel over the Hensons’ words and actions. These negative feelings are burdensome to me, a stumbling block that I will have to get over if I have any hope of being able to move past these issues towards the forgiveness which Jim Henson himself advocated.
If Steve is reading this, I hope that he will understand my rationale for doing what he has nobly refused to do and forgive me if I am out of line in doing so.
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