This is a contest to benefit the WE Schools charity, which is a worthy cause. Apparently, Disney is not going to see a cent of the money, so I can support this and spread the word with a clear conscience. However, I have mixed feelings about the prize and the promotions.
As I mentioned previously, I still have feelings I need to work through in regard to the Schism, starting with how I first found out about it. It was through this disturbing introductory bit on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert:
It wasn’t just that the bit was tacky and unfunny; it was that they didn’t provide any explanation afterward. I sat through the entire subsequent monologue on the edge of my seat, screaming at the TV, “What’s going on with Steve Whitmire and Kermit?!? You can’t just turn my world 90 degrees on its axis without further comment or followup!”
For whatever reason, Sesame Workshop chose to mark the occasion of the Fourth of July this year with a parody of NSYNC’s “Bye, Bye, Bye”:
Okay, so let’s just get this out of the way right off the bat: This video is not good. The reference is dated, it’s not close enough to the original to be readily recognizable, Ernie sounds like Walter in spots, and what the heck is up with the gratuitous autotune?
With that said, I’m glad that they did something that steered clear of frank patriotism because, as I have observed before, it is difficult to take pride in a country where children are being put in cages, and given Sesame’s mission and ethos, it would be disingenuous of them to do so.
I also enjoy Oscar’s contributions to the video because he’s basically saying out loud what I’m just thinking. And bless Matt Vogel’s heart, he’s in fine voice as the Count and really giving it his all. His level of commitment is admirable regardless of the overall end result.
This is what the Fourth of July looked like before the Schism:
This is what the Fourth of July looks like after the Schism:
- The Fourth of July was much more fun before Steve’s unwarranted dismissal. Now it’s apparently just tears and kazoo anthems against a plain background (not that I have anything against plain blue backgrounds 😉 ).
- That said, however, I do enjoy Walter’s kazoo harmonies.
- Daaaaaaaamn, Steve as Beaker totally killed the piccolo part on “Stars and Stripes Forever!”
- On a related note, I never thought I would say this, but I MISS RIZZO!
- Sam the Eagle clearly stopped plucking his eyebrow(s) sometime between 2009 and 2015.
- It’s really difficult to take pride in a country where kids are put in cages by pumpkin-headed demagogues, which is an incongruous thing to post on a Muppet blog, but it’s something that unfortunately has to be iterated and reiterated until our lawmakers get the point.
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.
Dear Dave, Matt, David, Bill, Eric, and Peter:
Recently I used a quotation from Alexander Hamilton to illustrate my thoughts about Disney’s decision to cut ties with Steve Whitmire (which I refer to as the “Schism,” because I am fancy). The quotation that I used is from a revolutionary pamphlet that Hamilton wrote as a teenager with the somewhat clunky title, A Full Vindication of the Measures of Congress:
“In a civil society” Hamilton wrote, “it is the duty of each particular branch to promote not only the good of the whole community, but the good of every other particular branch. If one part endeavors to violate the rights of another, the rest ought to assist in preventing the injury. When they do not but remain neutral, they are deficient in their duty, and may be regarded, in some measure, as accomplices.”
I wanted to let you know that that sentiment was not directed at you in any way. It was directed squarely at the Muppet fans who remain complacent. I want you to know that I don’t consider you to be accomplices in the Schism, nor do I consider you to have been deficient in your duty. I understand and appreciate the difficulty, complexity, and potential volatility of your situation.
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.
Though my mind be filled with questions, in my heart I understand…
“Patience, my brothers
And patience, my sons.
In that sweet and final hour,
Truth and justice will be done.”
Answer: Neither of them. It’s a trick question.
So…this last Monday that just happened, there was a Pentatonix Christmas special on TV, and the report was that Kermit was going to make an appearance. I debated with myself about whether or not to watch it, and ultimately I compromised with myself that I would watch it, but only with the sound down and the captions on. And I hoped that Kermit would appear early on, because watching a musical program with the sound down didn’t really appeal to me.
On November 21, 1990–twenty-seven years ago today, and six months after Jim Henson’s death–the tribute special “The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson” aired on CBS. It was Steve Whitmire’s first performance as Kermit the Frog. He had had less than six months to prepare.
Here is the finale. Kermit enters at 04:27:
Puppetry-wise, Steve was spot-on from the very beginning, giving Kermit these beautiful, subtle facial expressions. You can feel Kermit’s emotions as you watch; the sorrow and pride, the quiet joy and gratitude.
MY MOM: You were in kind of high dudgeon [about Kermit’s recast] before.
ME: Yeah, I still am.
–Excerpt from phone conversation, October 29, 2017.
Well, it’s been two weeks, so I should really talk about this.
It’s hard to find good clips of this on YouTube. Here’s a short, official clip:
Here’s a bootleg clip, which is very tiny and has a flashy background that I think should come with an epilepsy warning:
Some general comments before I get to the Kermit-specific stuff: Drew Scott’s Miss Piggy impression sounds more like Yoda, which (a) is hilarious, and (b) may have just become my new OTP (Yoda and Kermit, that is).
During the actual performance, I didn’t like the style of the vocalist that they had singing “Rainbow Connection”–and also she got the words wrong, which really rubs me the wrong way (as my mom could tell you, I’m sorry to say).
Nevertheless, I’m glad they didn’t have Kermit sing it; it’s still too soon. Not “Rainbow Connection.” Not now. Not yet.
Also, the fact that they had Kermit judge the dance but that his score didn’t count is strangely ironic and sadly fitting.
I intended (and still intend) to write my own review of Vogel!Kermit’s appearance on Dancing with the Stars on Monday, but I was waiting until I had a chance to talk to my mom about it, because I suspect that she will give me a good sound bite to turn into an opening quote.
But I’m just now hearing about the negative reaction to the appearance on Twitter from the casual Muppet fans, and it is strange and wonderful.
(Here’s the link. Just watch the video. Don’t read the little story underneath it; it’s unnecessarily snide and hurtful.)
It’s strange (and a little frustrating) because this issue has consumed my life for three months now, so to see other people just cottoning on now kind of makes me want to scream “Where have you BEEN for the last three months?!?” But it would be hugely hypocritical of me if I were to scream that because (a) prior to when the news broke in July, Muppets had been a fairly low priority for me and (b) I’m the woman who came 30 years late to the Fraggle party; I can hardly criticize anyone for being a measly three months behind the times.
On the other hand, after three months of rationalizing and justifying from the mainstream Muppet fandom–all the walking on eggshells on the big-name fansites for fear of pissing off Disney–and Tom Bergeron et al. on the show itself pretending that everything is normal, it’s so refreshing to hear people outside of our little die-hard circle of Steve’s loyal fans candidly speak up, like the child in The Emperor’s New Clothes, and say, “What the hell is going on? That doesn’t sound like Kermit at all!”
I’ve never considered myself a Jeanne D’Arc, and it doesn’t come naturally to make a call to figurative arms, but now might be an opportune moment to try and get the word out about what we know to be true about Steve and Disney. Now might be a good time to write more letters to the Disney execs. Now might be a good time to start re-circulating the petition. Now might be a good time to start talking to the casual fans about our concerns.
At the very least, we should try to gently persuade them to direct their anger where it belongs, toward the suits at Disney and the Muppet Studios, and try to deflect their anger away from Matt.
The mainstream Muppet fandom seems to have largely turned its back on both Steve and us, so now might be a good time to get the word out, to try to evoke some epiphanies in the casual fans, perhaps spur them to some kind of action, but at the very least, bring them into the conversation.
(And for me, it starts on Saturday when I’m going to a Halloween party dressed “sort of approximately” like Kermit.)
You don’t know me, but if you read Steve Whitmire’s blog at all, I often comment over there.
First of all, I wanted to wish you a happy birthday. When it was Steve’s birthday recently, I wished him a happy birthday on his blog, and I sent good wishes into the ether for Jim Henson, and even though you’re not part of their “birthday club,” I didn’t want you to feel left out. I hope you have a very happy and special day.
Secondly, I wanted to apologize to you; as I’m sure you understand, this whole situation with Disney letting Steve go from the Muppets is very upsetting to me. I’ve never been very good at pigeonholing my emotions, and writing (whether it be on a blog or elsewhere) is often the “safe” medium into which I channel my negative thoughts and feelings. Unfortunately, there are times when I’ve been lashing out at Disney and you’ve sort of gotten caught in the crossfire, as it were. If I seem angry, I want you to know that I never meant to take it out on you.
(And if you spend any time on my blog, you’ll notice that I often express myself through song lyrics or paraphrases thereof.)
“Five minutes into the [Hollywood Bowl] show, and I forgot that he had a new performer – Kermit was just Kermit.”
–Joe Hennes, “REPORT: The Muppets Take the Bowl,” ToughPigs.com, September 12, 2017
I’m genuinely happy for Joe that he enjoyed the show, and the same goes for anyone who attended and enjoyed it.
But this is exactly why I don’t want to watch clips from the Hollywood Bowl show; not because I think it won’t be good, but because I’m afraid it will be good.
The last two months have been terrible in so many ways, and yet they’ve brought to my life a sense of purpose that I haven’t felt in a long time.