Well, I decided to follow Mark Hamill on Twitter just in time to hear his version of the Skeksis Scientist’s voice as he plugs the Dark Crystal panel at San Diego Comic Con.
This is Part 2 of a series of at least three. Click here for Part 1.
Steve’s booth was next to Gigi Edgley’s, who was also making an appearance at OCon. I had seen that that was the plan and wondered if that was going to be awkward, given her close association with Brian Henson. But I didn’t want to ask Steve if it was awkward, because I thought that that somehow might make it more awkward. However, Steve brought up the subject of her appearance, asking me if I was familiar with her work. I told him that I’d never seen Farscape but that I had watched Creature Shop Challenge. He said that he hadn’t met her before this convention and wasn’t familiar with her work, but that he’d gotten acquainted with her over the course of the convention.
Clearly there’s no bad blood there.
Before you begin reading, I should warn you: This is an extensive, detailed, impressionistic, lengthy, and potentially incoherent account of my trip to Omaha Comic Con to meet Steve Whitmire. I’m writing it in such great detail not because I think it will be interesting to you (although I hope it will be!) but mostly to fix my own memories of it as firmly in my mind as possible.
If you want the tl;dr version, the entire experience can basically be summed up in five emojis:
I knew that meeting Steve at OCon was going to be an emotional experience. I anticipated that, as a result, I was going to have difficulty controlling my tears, that all the feels were going to turn my brain into guacamole, and that I was going to have a hard time talking to him as a result.
I tried to prepare myself beforehand to counteract these effects. I made notes about what I wanted to say, and I tried to imagine what would happen when I met him. When it happened for real, I was successful in the former regard (controlling my tears) but had less success in the latter (communicating articulately). All things considered, I think I did pretty well, because there was NO WAY I could ever have predicted or prepared for what actually happened.
If there’s one thing that Muppet fans agree on, it’s that there are variations to Kermit’s behavior/personality. Many see the differences as a negative and attribute them to the change(s) in performer. Both Steve Whitmire and the writers are frequent targets of this criticism, with fans on forums claiming that the writers and Steve alike have been too “precious” about Kermit, resulting in Kermit’s having become too soft, too bland, or too nice. I understand what they mean, and I understand that “precious” is meant to be a pejorative in this case, but personally, I think that being “too precious” with Kermit and the other Muppets is vastly preferable than treating them like old socks that can be tossed around willy-nilly, as Disney is doing now.*
However, I get the impression (and this is pure conjecture on my part) that Steve had been hearing criticisms in this vein for years and years. No more than one day before Cheryl Henson infamously weaponized the criticisms against him in a Facebook post (which, in her defense, was apparently intended to be private), he made the following statement in a blog entry: “[T]here is actually no such thing as Jim’s Kermit and Steve’s Kermit – There is only Kermit.”
In my opinion, the whole issue is a lot more complex than anyone, perhaps even Steve, is willing and/or able to fully acknowledge.
I have some more thoughts that I edited out of my post from yesterday on the grounds that it was still supposed to be a post for Matt’s birthday, and I felt some of what I wanted to say wasn’t necessarily very sensitive. Maybe it would have been okay, but I wanted to err on the side of caution.
A couple of weeks ago, it was announced that Kermit the Frog will be performing the title role in a live stage production of The Wizard of Oz which, as I’m sure we can all agree, seems really weird and random. Why that production? Why that role? Why just Kermit and not the whole Muppet troupe? It sounds to me like somebody in a decision-making role with the Muppets has a friend who called in a favor. But I digress.
Predictably, some of the reactions to the news involved some variation on the extremely witty comment, “I hope this production is better than Muppets’ Wizard of Oz, because that really sucked!”
I’ve never understood the hatred that people level against Muppets’ Wizard of Oz. Admittedly, it’s not the best thing that the Muppets have ever done, but it’s not the worst thing either, and there’s a lot of fun to be had with it, especially if–like me–you’re primarily familiar with the story from the original novel rather than the 1939 film adaptation.
For those who may be concerned, the above video is 100% free of silly string.
Among people who know me well, I’m not known for having a very generous attitude toward blue humor. As a matter of fact, if you were to ask the people I went to high school with, most of them would probably say I was something of a prude. (They might not actually use the word “prude,” but they would say something to that effect.) And my poor, patient younger brother could attest to the number of times he’s shown me an R-rated movie that he really likes, hoping that we could enjoy it together, only to have me watch it like a deer in headlights, and sometimes get on my high horse about it after the fact.
All of which is just to help you to understand where I’m coming from when I say that I saw Happytime Murders recently and actually really loved it.
You guys…I saw Happytime Murders last night when movie tickets were discounted, and I actually really loved it.
Maybe it was because I hadn’t seen the trailer, maybe it was because I had zero expectations of Brian Henson, or maybe it was all the bootlegged Kids in the Hall sketches I binge-watched beforehand to put me in a more receptive mindset, but I thoroughly enjoyed the movie.
I’m writing a full review but don’t know when I’ll get it finished, so I just wanted to let you know that I found it to be much better than reviews would have you believe. I laughed a lot and even cried a little, but in a good way.
As you’re probably already aware, there’s a movie coming out today called The Happytime Murders, directed by Brian Henson. I haven’t talked about the movie here, and the reason is that I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch the trailer, and I make it a point not to critique things that I haven’t seen. It’s a personal quirk of mine; I call it “integrity.”
There is a certain Muppet fan site, which I will not identify by name, that regards Happytime as Serious Business, and they are Very Concerned about the movie’s R-rated content, concerns that they expressed in an extremely sanctimonious commentary on the movie* that none of them have technically “seen,” raising questions about its worthiness of the Henson name and worrying about its effect on Jim Henson’s legacy.
The original Muppet Babies series was not part of my childhood because it was on a channel that we didn’t get at my house. However, as a teenager I had a steady babysitting job and I watched Muppet Babies with those kids a lot, so I’m passingly familiar with it. And yet, that was twenty-some years ago, so it’s no longer in the forefront of my consciousness.
All of which is just to say that, as I review the new Muppet Babies series (or, at least, the two episodes of it that I’ve seen), I won’t be making comparisons with the original series because the original series is largely lost to me in the mists of memory.
I plan to reference it later, but for now, just read it. Pay particular attention to the part about the Henson kids; it’s brief, but it’s important.
Back in 2013, JHC hosted a contest to write a story (or part of one) set in The Dark Crystal universe. The winner got to write an entire novel set in The Dark Crystal universe.
I entered the contest. I didn’t win.
At the time it was kind of a bummer, but I knew it was always going to be a long shot, seeing as I came relatively late to The Dark Crystal and its mythos (although I went out of my way to do my homework on it and try to make up for lost time). The thing that really bummed me out about it was that the stories that weren’t finalists or editors’ choice selections didn’t get any feedback, so I don’t know what they thought of it. I mean, I can construe from the fact that it didn’t make it into the next phase of the competition that they didn’t love it, but whether that means that they merely liked it, or hated it, or were too bored by it to even form an opinion, I have no idea.
In retrospect, however, I’m glad that I didn’t win the contest, because then I would have been beholden to the Hensons and wouldn’t be able to speak out as candidly on their involvement in the Schism as I have been.
And yet, as long as I have this blog, and a small but interested audience, I was thinking that maybe I would post my story here. That way, you could read and (hopefully) enjoy it, and I could finally get some feedback on it.
So if you’re interested in reading my Dark Crystal-inspired story, leave a comment, and if there’s enough interest, I will post it.
Incidentally, here is something I wrote at the time regarding my process, in which I did some intertextual thinking about The Dark Crystal and Harry Potter and decided that the Mystics are a race of Dumbledores and the Skeksis are a race of Voldemorts.
“Hamilton had now written 60,000 words in just a couple of months. For perspective, the book you are holding clocks in at 58,000 words and, I’m embarrassed to say, took much longer.”
–Jeff Wilser, “Seek the Core Principles,” Alexander Hamilton’s Guide to Life.
From November 1774 to February 1775, teenaged college student Alexander Hamilton wrote two political pamphlets defending the American Revolutionary cause. Specifically, he was responding to pamphlets written by British loyalist Samuel Seabury. While Wilser estimates Hamilton’s word count for the two pamphlets to be 60,000, according to my estimation, it is closer to 65,000.
I mention this because I was looking at my statistics page for this blog and found that over the course of five months, from July 31 to December 31, 2017, I wrote 66,089 words on this blog. So I’m almost keeping pace with Alexander Hamilton, in quantity if not in quality.
I was feeling quite smug about this until I did the math and realized that–depending on whether the 60,000 or 65,000 word figure is more accurate–Hamilton still outstrips me by approximately 3000 to 4000 words a month because he created his content in a shorter amount of time. Also, he was writing everything out in longhand and didn’t have the Internet to assist him in research.
DANNY HORN: Hey, did I ever tell you about my theory that Mew’s death is a metaphor for AIDS? It’s 1986, and gay men are dying all over the place. The creators are TV puppet people from New York and LA, so obviously a lot of their friends are dying. So in this special, you get Mew — the despised, unfairly judged cat-toy — dying suddenly. Rugby realizes how precious Mew is… but he figures it out too late. […] Then the fantasy is that the dead loved one can be resurrected and vindicated, just through the power of love and Christmas. You can see how this was an appealing fantasy for artsy people in 1986.
KYNAN BARKER: Did I ever tell you MY theory that sometimes a kids’ TV special is just a kids’ TV special?
–ToughPigs.com, “My Week with Another Christmas – Day Two: Doll Be Home for Christmas,” December 24, 2003.
Today is Epiphany, so I wanted to do not only a Christmas-themed article but one with some real substance to it, and this 14-year-old conversation about The Christmas Toy is a good jumping-off point for a discussion of allegory versus applicability.
An allegory is a detailed, in-depth metaphor that represents a situation or event in the real world. Authors who write allegory are usually not very subtle about the point they’re trying to get across. For example, I would consider A Christmas Carol to be an allegory: There’s not much to speculate about what the three spirits represent; it’s right there in their names.
On the other hand, a work has applicability if it can support multiple interpretations, regardless of what the author’s intention may have been. As J.R.R. Tolkien explained it, “I think that many confuse ‘applicability’ with ‘allegory’; but one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other resides in the purposed domination of the author.” Tolkien ran up against this attitude often when Lord of the Rings fans would ask him questions about the allegorical meaning of the novels, to which he would respond that there was none, but that it was applicable to many real-life situations or events.