Back in the spring, the Henson Company released the clunkily titled short-form series “Fraggle Rock: Rock On!” I reviewed the first episode and didn’t expect to watch any more, but someone kept posting bootleg copies on the Cave-In Discord server. Curiosity got the best of me, and since each episode is less than 10 minutes long, I thought, “What the hey?” and watched them all.
About a month ago now, I guess, a new short-form series featuring the Fraggle Rock characters was announced. Redundantly titled Fraggle Rock: Rock On!, it premiered its first five-minute episode three weeks ago. Premise: the Fraggle Five use new radish-based technology in the form of “Doozer tubes” to communicate with each other, and with Traveling Matt, remotely.
Before the series premiered, I had mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, Fraggle Rock is precisely the right content for this peculiar moment in history because it’s all about meeting adversity with courage, compassion, and yes, even joy. On the other hand, one of the most wonderful things about the original Fraggle Rock is that it’s almost completely timeless. If they make a new, obliquely topical Fraggle Rock series, I wondered to myself, isn’t it going to lose that timeless quality?
Obviously, from a practical, Doylist perspective, I completely understand the need for the puppeteers to work distantly from one another. But from a Watsonian view, why would the Fraggles have to be in isolation? Wouldn’t you think that living underground would be an effective quarantine?
Then, of course, there was the big question: What of Wembley?
I watched the first episode online, and it answered a lot of my questions and alleviated some of my misgivings. But only some.
I’m going to make two points about this episode. They may seem unrelated, even contradictory, but there is a method to my madness.
Today I was listening to “Just a Dream Away,” and tears came to my eyes. Admittedly a perfectly normal and understandable reaction, but I realized I didn’t know exactly why I was crying.
Why exactly does this song provoke this reaction from me? Is it purely the beauty of the song and the performance? Or is it the dramatic irony of knowing Richard Hunt’s eventual fate? Is it the inherent lovability of Mudwell the Mudbunny? Or is it the contrast between his speaking voice and his singing voice? Is it entirely due to one of these factors, or is a combination of two or more of them?
I still haven’t figured it out yet. Perhaps I never will.
Maybe it’s better not to know. Maybe if I figured it out, it would break the spell, and the song wouldn’t have the same effect on me anymore.
As I’m sure you’re all aware, yesterday was the anniversary of Jim Henson’s death. But I can never concentrate entirely on Jim Henson on May 16th, because it’s also my niece’s birthday.
At times, my niece (who just turned 8) is like a ray of sunshine, but more often, in the words of Cantus (and Dennis Lee), I find her to be a walkin’, talkin’, breathin’, ball of fire.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I watched this video originally when it first came out in 2012. At that time, I hadn’t seen any Fraggle Rock, except for that one episode that I happened to catch at a friend’s house approximately 25 years prior, and I wasn’t a particular fan of Ben Folds Five either. So when I read on the Muppet fan sites that the Fraggles and Ben Folds Five had made a music video, I was initially underwhelmed: “Oh, two entities with which I am vaguely familiar sang a song together. Neat.”
Then I watched the video and it completely blew me away. I wasn’t expecting to be so affected by it. Whether it was the music or the Fraggles or the combination of the two that touched my heart, I still don’t know.
“Dixie Wailin'” is certainly one of my favorite Fraggle Rock songs, if not my very favorite. So it bothers me that almost everyone who covers it seems to get the lyrics wrong.
The way you know that a work of art is living and vibrant and timeless is if you continue to find new meanings in it over time. I’ve loved this song for five years now, but watching “Fraggle Wars” again recently, I was suddenly broadsided by the realization that this song, and the narrative milieu in which it occurs, is very relatable to the current plight of immigrant families at the border.
Which makes sense. After all, Fraggle Rock was created to address and counteract cruelty and stupidity such as this.
As much as I wish it were otherwise, the executive order of this week resolves nothing. All that’s purportedly changed is that instead of separating children from parents and putting them in cages, now the parents and children are going to be put into cages together. That still leaves us with the problem of children in cages.
Please don’t let up on your lawmakers. I know telling them that children don’t belong in cages feels like stating the obvious, but they need to hear it over and over again. Call during office hours, if possible. If we can’t reason with them, and we can’t shame them, the best we can hope to do is create such an impedance to their day-to-day operations that they’ll have no choice but to relent.
Due to the current administration’s draconian policies and sociopathic lack of conscience, there are many souls at our border (and elsewhere) who are not free, and they deserve not only our pity but our righteous indignation on their behalf.
It’s strange how every time I post answers to a Muppet-related survey, something comes along almost immediately thereafter to change my answer. Recently I posted updated answers to The Muppet Mindset’s “Great Muppet Survey” and listed my favorite Muppet merchandise as DVDs and plushes.
Well, all that has changed again, because I recently received the Wembley and Cotterpin Funko Pop figures as a birthday present, and I find them more delightful than I would have thought possible.
“Beyond the Pond” is an underrated episode of Fraggle Rock that had the misfortune to fall between two exceptionally memorable episodes: “River of Life” and “Gone, But Not Forgotten.” Having a similar theme to “River of Life,” but a considerably lighter touch, I think it tends to get lost in the shuffle.
Slightly off-topic, but I was thinking about this one today because Lin-Manuel Miranda has shingles.
And while I of course feel sorry for him–because by all accounts, shingles is a miserable illness–I’m also shocked and disturbed because I didn’t know it was possible to get shingles in your 30s. Lin is the same age I am; that means I’m susceptible too. Crap.
(Unless, of course, it only attacks obscenely talented and successful thirty-somethings, in which case I’m off the hook.)
I’ve observed in the past that there seems to be at least one Fraggle Rock song that fits every situation and event. That continues to hold true, even in the wake of the senseless and horrific:
“But I had a dream it was time to begin, and every creature… / We were sister and brother we were part of each other and it made us one / And it made us win. “
“It can make you ache for the sake of another / And it takes your life, and it stakes it too / And it makes you make the world come new.”
“We’re all part of everything, and everything is part of us.”–Gobo Fraggle
When I got my first medical transcription job over seven years ago, I supposed that that was going to be how I earned my living for the rest of my life. I figured that writing was just going to be a hobby, something I did for my own amusement and that of my friends.
But as is so often the case, things in my life haven’t worked out exactly the way I supposed they would, and I’m forced to find other means of paying the bills. And with a Hamilton-esque word count of 66,089 words on this blog over the course of five months, writing seems like a skill that I could perhaps parlay into something more rewarding in actual money in addition to mere personal satisfaction.
Is it just me, or was the conflict in this episode really avoidable?
I agree with every sentence Joe Hennes has written here, with the possible exception of the last one.
However, I also think that it is important to recognize that evil is not confined to national government, nor to the world of politics and government at large. For all its vile, despotic tendencies, the Trump administration and its obsequious enablers in Congress do not yet have the monopoly on greed, corruption, and wanton acts of injustice in this country.