Julia Gaskill – “I wish I was watching a Muppet movie right now,” I say glumly as class is about to begin. My friend raises an eyebrow. “When is that ever not true?” is his only response. I can’t help but laugh.
This was a conversation that took place between a friend and myself about a week ago, and I feel it sums up my general being when it comes to the Muppets.
I, like everyone, grew up with the Muppets. I watched the films frequently as a kid, and I remember The Great Muppet Caper was always my favorite (my best Muppet-related childhood memory involves me tossing myself on the ground at random intervals of my days yelling “TAXIIIIIIII!!!”). There was also Sesame Street before school, Muppet Babies reruns after school, and sometimes my brother and I would even play Muppets together (he’d be Kermit and I’d always be Rowlf). Yes, Muppets were certainly a constant in my life growing up.
But then something happened. Suddenly they weren’t quite as prevalent. I guess Harry Potter, the internet, and a crippling crush on John Adams (yes, our nation’s second president) took over. I still watched the Muppet movies on occasion, but Lord of the Rings, boys, fanfiction, and, again, the internet swiftly became all I cared about. The Muppets were left in the dark from age ten until age twenty.
It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment Muppets started to creep back into my life. It was a gradual process, that’s certain. Around my sophomore year of college “Moving Right Along” suddenly became one of the most listened to songs on my iPod, and I had begun rewatching all my favorite bits from the Muppet movies I had grown up with. Then, one day during the summer before my junior year, I was surfing YouTube for Muppet clips when a particular video caught my eye. It was entitled: “Just One Person.” So I clicked on it, and what unfolded before my eyes changed my life. I watched as the Muppets grieved the loss of their creator, read letters from fans sharing their sympathies, and then joined together in song. By the end of the video I was sobbing. I had never truly put any thought into the people behind (erm, underneath?) the Muppets before. I became fascinated.
As the school year began I went back to my ordinary life, but the Muppets were still there at the back of my mind, quietly nagging me to come back to them. Once Christmas break rolled around, I caved in. Going home for the break, the very first thing I did was watch The Muppet Christmas Carol. I reveled in amazement of how the Muppets had not lost their touch. In fact, I was surprised to find that I enjoyed them possibly more than I did as a kid. I watched Christmas Carol many times over that break, and even dug out Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree to rewatch (yeah, you heard me!). Then, near the end of December, I was at a friend’s house and a bunch of us were playing a question game. One friend was asked, “What would you do if everyone in the world was turned into Muppets?” My friend responded with, “I don’t know, but I bet Amanda and Julia would be Gonzo and Rizzo.” Hearing this filled me with such immense joy and I was instantly ecstatic. I then had to take a step back. Was it normal to be this excited over someone comparing me to Rizzo the Rat? I wasn’t sure, so I kept it to myself.
Christmas ended and I headed back to college sans Christmas Carol. Then one day at work I was surfing Netflix and there it was. The Muppets Take Manhattan. A Muppet movie I’d never seen before! I watched it, and I found myself obsessed. A couple days after that something amazing happened. Something truly wonderful… I got strep throat. Okay, maybe strep throat shouldn’t be described as “amazing” or “wonderful,” but it confined me to my bed for five days straight, and what did I do the entire time I was stuck in bed? You guessed it. Muppets. At the start of that week I didn’t know the difference between Jerry Juhl and Jerry Nelson, but by the end of the week I could list all the Muppeteers, the characters, and most of the behind-the-scenes crew. The Muppet Wiki became my fountain of knowledge and I joined the Muppet Central forum family. I had watched and rewatched all the movies, not to mention started my journey through Fraggle Rock. It was beyond wonderful.
As I began to watch The Muppet Show, buy memorabilia, and toss around the idea of a Muppet tattoo, friends started to notice. They didn’t really get it. Suddenly their Facebook’s were bombarded with updates about Gorgs and rainbow connections and someone named Dave Goelz. They all figured it was some strange nostalgic phase that would pass. It wasn’t until I delivered a slam poem entitled “Where the Fraggles Roam” that people began to realize this wasn’t any old obsession. This was something that was going to stick, and, by Bunsen, it has!
My Muppet love has officially been around for over a year now, and what a year it’s been! I’ve gained so many friends through Tough Pigs and Muppet Central, I’ve watched all the Henson things I can get my hands on, and I know, for a fact, that at least two Muppeteers have now seen my slam poem (being tweeted by Bill Barretta that he likes your work will only lead to crying, let me tell you that). I got to experience the hype and lead up to The Muppets, and even went to a showing on opening day (with my father who, I’m embarrassed to say, fell asleep in the theater). I also started up a Muppet Tumblr last year entitled “Never Too Old To Love Muppets,” which has garnered some great popularity. Most recently I sent out applications for internships with Sesame Workshop and Henson Studios, and I’m eagerly waiting to hear back from them (fingers crossed!).
All that being said, I still have a long ways to go as a Muppet fan. I still haven’t seen all of The Muppet Show (being a broke college student really sucks), I’ve only seen a couple episodes of Muppets Tonight, none of The Storyteller or The Jim Henson Hour, an I’ve never attended a Muppet event. In truth, I’m still just a newbie. I haven’t even touched Sesame Street yet (I figure that’ll be my post-college project). There’s just so much to see, so much knowledge to gain. I know I’m still a novice, but nothing in this world fills me with as much love and drive as the Muppets, and I so look forward to all the new things they’ll be doing in the years to come!
So I guess I’ll end with a piece from an essay I wrote last month. I think it does a good job summing up just how much the Muppets, and everyone associated with them, mean to me:
That is the Muppets for me. They are my heart. They make me happy and they give me hope and fill me with a sense that anything is possible. They remind me of the importance of friendship and the necessity of dreams. They bring me peace, joy, laughter, harmony, and love. I view them not only on a personal level, but a philosophical one. They see the world the way I wish everyone could see it. They see rainbows as a sign of hope, not hate. Dynamite is used for humor instead of hurt. Everyone has the right to love and befriend whoever they want. Death, when mentioned in any of the Muppet mediums (and Sesame, Muppets, and Fraggles have all touched on it majorly at this point) is talked of so genuinely and beautifully. They offer a world where balloons can whisk you away, where a bear and a frog can conceivably be identical twins, where appearance doesn’t matter, and where friendship and love will always outrank evil doing and fame. To quote Kermit the Frog: “Yeah, well, I’ve got a dream too. But it’s about singing and dancing and making people happy. That’s the kind of dream that gets better the more people you share it with.”
Why wouldn’t anyone want to live in such a world?
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, email@example.com