Jim Henson (YGtCTO #165)

The Muppet Show

Television series created by Jim Henson

Odds are pretty high that after reading the above titles with any recognition whatsoever, you started smiling. If not, then you might want to consider a quick look at the opening theme from the first season. I daresay you might even be able to get away with it at work. Who could possibly complain? Bear in mind, the sequence grew more outrageous as time passed.

Henson always walked a fine line with his creations. For the most part, puppets have worked best as manifestations of bare emotion- at least prior to stop animation, which is not really puppets. Ultimately, the overall static expression on a puppet often allows only for the projection of one emotion. That painted on face clearly means that this character is always afraid or dim or some other representative of our internal monologue.

The Muppets are not prone to the full gamut of human expression, but that hand inside of cloth does allow just a bit more than your average wooden-head. Perhaps the limited expression forces us to pay closer attention- read more into every small movement. It might also explain why those rare moments of change in their eyes seem more disturbing than communicative. After all, they have to cut away and replace the pieces.

Audiences always project themselves onto performers as much as the actors send the story and their feelings in the opposite direction. Fans have identified favorite actors for generations, so it should not be strange to hear someone fulminate about how much they like Miss Piggy or Kermit. Human actors change roles- even movie stars, though the talk is always about their ability to project a little bit of themselves from beneath the character as written. None of the Muppets is ever anything but themselves. At least, that was the case during the first generation of creators.

Jim Henson

I’m sure

my parents found it strange that they knew of a world before Walt Disney and his myriad cultural inroads. The very idea that someone dreamed up Mickey Mouse seems remarkable now. Even weirder is watching Disney cartoons from each decade of the past century. Yet, my parents did just that. At some point, they must have identified the Mickey Mouse that was the pure character. All the others were pale imitations. I’m not sure if that was an active thought beyond realizing that what was presented on the screen before you was somehow wrong.

I don’t know if corporations can be artists, though I have my doubts. Artistic creations have long taken on lives of their own beyond the control of their creators. Someone first told a story about Little Red Riding Hood, but they are forgotten completely and their story has been altered and adulterated in ways they never imagined. I have to assume that is all right- she’s become a part of our shared culture.

Kermit, Mickey, and Clark Kent have done something similar in their far briefer lives. Maybe the problem is that they don’t feel quite like they belong to all of us. Maybe our projected emotions are just being bottled for sale back to us.

What’s it all about?

You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 135 more to go.

New additions to You’ve Got to Check This Out release regularly. Also, free humor, short works, and poetry post irregularly. Receive notifications on Facebook by friending or following Craig.

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