However, today, children's television station "The Hub" was showing the three worst pieces of Muppet movie trash, "Muppet Treasure Island," "Muppets from Space," and "A Muppet Christmas Carol." We were watching bits and pieces of them, mostly in anticipation of our annual Thanksgiving Night movie excursion, this time to see "The Muppets," Disney's attempt to reboot the franchise.
Now, a little bit of history and backstory. I was born in 1973, which puts me smack in the target audience for "The Muppets." I am right in the middle of generation X, saw "The Muppet Movie" in the theatres in 1979, danced as Kermit with a Miss Piggy in first grade to "The Rainbow Connection," and was young enough to experience the Muppets for the first time with a child's eyes. I didn't understand the camp, the satire, the multiple layers until later, but I always understood that at the very heart of the, there was a message of hope, of creativity and of fitting in to the world around you while maintaining your individuality. When I was 9, I drove my parents crazy to get me a Miss Piggy Puppet for Christmas, and then crazier trying to find hair accessories for it. (Should i have known THEN that I was destined to be a drag queen? Probably.) A singing Miss Piggy delivered balloons to the office where I was working the summer I turned 16. I have ALWAYS cried at the finale of that first movie ("Life's like a movie/write your own ending/keep believing/keep pretending..."). One night about a dozen years ago, I met a new friend who immediately seemed like a soulmate. After several hours of conversation, I said to him, unironically, "There's not a word yet for old friends who've just met." He got a look in his eyes and raced back to his bedroom and returned with the framed lyric from "I'm Going To Go Back There Someday," Gonzo's song which I had just quoted.
Needless to say, I have always felt a deep, deep connection to the Muppets. When Jim Henson died, I was devastated, but never more so than the TV special several years later where the Muppets were looking for Kermit. In the last moments of that special, he entered and spoke for the first time without Jim Henson's voice and i bawled like a baby.
Tonight sitting in the theatre watching "The Muppets" I was very glad that i had extra napkins, because I relied on them frequently: When Kermits photo wall had a picture of him in Jim's arms; when the cast started backing up Kermit and Piggy on an ensemble version of "Rainbow Connection," and just about a dozen other times.
I AM the target audience for "The Muppets." The running theme of this movie involves trying to recapture the magic that the gang used to have. In some subtle way, they're saying "Back in the 70's, we knew what we were doing. Since Jim died, we've been floundering. We sold ourselves to some German company, and they sold us to Disney, and neither of them had figured out what made us so special back in the days of The Muppet Show." And they'd be right. But I can tell you what made them so special:
The Muppets have ALWAYS referenced a kinder, simpler time. In the 1970's, we were at war in Vietnam, we were in the middle of a crumbling recession, national pride was in the toilet, our government was floundering. There's a great joke where Kermit pulls out his rolodex and tries to call President Carter. Well, the Muppet Show was always vaudeville, in the 1970's a throwback to the 20's, today a throwback to the colorful halcyon days of the 1970's. We've let things get too serious again. We've forgotten that when we all work together, we can accomplish miracles. When I ran for Empress, I used the platform of "Community, Camp and Collaboration." What are the Muppets if not a shining beacon of all three of those concepts?
Let's learn from new muppet Walter (who can be a manly muppet, while his brother can be a muppetish man). We can accomplish amazing things if we just try. Let's learn from Kermit and Piggy, who look at each other like Amanda and Elyot in Private Lives and realize that while they may occasionally make each other miserable, they have a love that can survive ages. Let's look at Gonzo, who although he is a rich and famous plumber, still wears The Great Gonzo's jumpsuit under his pinstripes. Let's learn from Scooter, who within a beat changes from "I don't go onstage!" to the host of the Muppet Telethon. And let's learn from the producers of "The Muppets," who although they kept Rowlf (as the true alter-ego of Jim Henson) silent for years, brought him back as if to say, "Jim's spirit, his laugh-at-ourselves-first perspective and his sense that we ALL fit in, even as we are all individuals" was missing, but it's back.
I'm still emotional from having seen this movie, and that may be silly. But it's making me reconnect with a more colorful time when we all worked together, when we all problem-solved our way out of crisis, and when we all put on rose-colored glasses, not because we were naive, but because the world was a little bit prettier that way.
I AM the target audience for "The Muppets"...but so are you. And so are we all.