“WHAT?!? The cave is…is empty! There is no bell! It’s all a lie!”
–Gobo Fraggle, who apparently never thought to look up to see if there was a clapper in the ceiling of the bell-shaped cavern.
In starting a Muppet blog, my goal was to try to strike a balance between the serious and the silly, as the Muppets have always done so effectively. While I’m still proud of the content I have created, I do feel that perhaps I’ve been less than successful in that regard.
I hoped that Christmas would be a time that I could lean more toward the lighthearted side of the spectrum, back off a bit from the Schism, and temporarily beat my sword back into a ploughshare.
(Although you don’t want to try plowing this time of year; at least in this hemisphere, the ground is frozen.)
Throughout this month, I’ve been watching Muppet Christmas productions in preparation for an article series that I see now that I’m not going to have time to do properly until next year. However, instead of being a temporary respite from the Schism, they reminded me of it all the more, especially the productions made subsequent to 1990.
Partly it is because Steve is all over those productions, giving alternately heartwarming and heartwrenching performances as Kermit, Beaker, Bean Bunny, and even Rizzo. But mostly it’s because, in the wake of the Schism, all these songs, stories, and specials with messages of compassion and understanding, friendship and inclusion, comfort and forgiveness ring so hollow now.
Brian Henson and Disney, sometimes in concert with one another and sometimes separately, have been cranking these things out sporadically over the past 25 years, and yet have dramatically demonstrated over the course of the last four months to a year that they really don’t believe in the message of these songs, stories, and specials at all. Either that, or there have been invisible parentheticals embedded in the lyrics and dialogue all along: “Let us always love each other (except Steve)”… “Everyone matters (except Steve)”…”God bless us, every one (except Steve)….” and so on.
So I’m forced to ask: Was it all a lie? Were all these Muppet Christmas productions just a cynical attempt to manipulate us emotionally? A Christmas scam to sell movie tickets and gain advertising revenue? Has it all been just a long, long grift?
Maybe this has been their secret subtext the whole time: