I’m always impressed and a little embarrassed when I find that someone has been able to express a point in less than 10 minutes that I have spent literally hundreds of hours and thousands of words trying to explicate. Such was the case when I found this incredibly succinct, accurate, and fair-minded assessment of the Schism on YouTube a couple weeks ago (Warning: It contains NSFW language):
Apart from a few minor quibbles, I agree with everything said in this video, which does a really good job of calling out the responsible parties without being unfair to the puppeteers. But there’s one point that I really want to emphasize:
“We’ve now seen what’s come to pass. We’ve now got hindsight on this matter. Kermit the Frog no longer sounds consistent. He no longer really sounds like Kermit the Frog.”
Admittedly, not everyone agrees with this opinion. But it seems to me that most everyone who thinks Matt’s Kermit voice sounds like Kermit are people who accepted the recast with little question. The casual fans don’t seem to be buying it, which strongly suggests it is yet another example of belief affecting perception. In other words, people who believe that the recast was justified and/or who need it to be okay, are more likely to hear Kermit when Matt speaks, whereas casual fans with no preconceived notions think he sounds off. With that said, if there are casual fans who didn’t already know about the recast and don’t notice it, they are unlikely to comment on it, which means there’s no way of ensuring an accurate data pool.
One thing that struck me while watching this video is that Brian Henson and Cheryl Henson have each expressed the opinion that Steve’s Kermit performance got away from what Jim Henson established, but they don’t seem to be in agreement as to who and what Kermit should be. The Kermit that lives in Cheryl’s mind is “good-hearted” and “compassionate,” while the version that lives in Brian’s head is “naughty” and a “bit of a prankster.”
Now, it’s tempting to say that they should have gotten their stories straight before talking to the media, but that’s not entirely fair. As I have expressed before, Kermit is a complex character. It is possible that he could be all of those things at certain times depending on the context. Maybe he was even a prankster in the Sam and Friends days. I don’t believe that he’s pulled many pranks since his “frogification,” but it depends partly on how you define a “prank.” Nevertheless, it’s unreasonable to expect Steve (or anyone) to recreate the “true spirit of Jim Henson’s Kermit” when the Hensons themselves can’t even agree on what Kermit’s distinguishing characteristics are.
I have reason to believe that there may still be people in the mainstream Muppet fandom and/or the Disney fandom who might wonder when I’m going to get over this and stop talking about it. And you know what? That’s a fair question, which deserves an honest answer.
The truth is, I was ready to let it go and move on after I met Steve at OCon last summer. I talked to him there about this whole situation and found that he seemed to have made his peace with it. I saw him smiling and having fun while surrounded by caring and supportive people, which is what I wished for him since almost the beginning of this sad business. And as I observed all this, I came to believe that he was in a pretty good place, and therefore I could also move on from the situation.
Let me explain exactly what I mean when I say “move on”: I was always going to keep supporting Steve as it relates to Cave-In and his other projects, but with the goal of looking forward rather than backward. I never intended to stop criticizing Disney, which I have been doing since long before the sale of the Muppets that put this unfortunate series of events into motion. But I intended to make my criticisms more general and not relate them specifically to Steve’s situation. And I intended to shift the focus of this blog to more general commentary about the Muppets.
But then, about the time of the first Cave-In (not coincidentally), people on the internet started telling tales again, dredging up the same half-truths, baseless assumptions, and blatant inaccuracies that they’d spread before, now with extra embroidery and suppositions that even a cursory examination of the facts does not support. I didn’t want to get back into it, but I couldn’t let the blatant falsehoods go unchallenged.
I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: Even though Steve is someone I care about very much, this is about something much bigger than him. It’s about holding everyone to the same standard of accountability, which is more important now than ever before.
So for those who are still wondering how long I’m going to keep talking about the situation between Steve and Disney, the answer is “as long as there’s a need for it.” Snide insinuations made about Steve on forums and social media, as well as nasty comments directed at me and my blog because I dare to question or challenge Disney-sanctioned propaganda, only communicate to me that the need is still very strong.