Hearing this question, I turned around to find Captain America looking me square in the eyes from a good two feet below. How do I even begin to answer such a question?
My name is Joel. I am nineteen years old. When introducing myself to a large group, such as at a first rehearsal or on the first day of school, my “fun fact” is usually as follows: “I am a Muppet enthusiast.”
I don’t remember not being obsessed with Kermit and the gang. My first mental breakdown occurred when my mom accidentally sold my Muppet Babies play set in our annual garage sale. In fact, it got so emotional that the toys were tracked down and returned. I’m not saying I was a bratty kid. I just really loved the Muppets.
I am majoring in Music Theater at Oklahoma City University with dreams of someday performing on Broadway. I take no shame in stating that I owe that dream to none other than Kermit the Frog. The Muppets Take Manhattan opened my young eyes to a colorful, musical world that existed on the stage, and I wanted in. If my favorite frog could do it, so could I. From there, I started auditioning for community theatre musicals, and, step-by-step, I grew up performing as a hobby. Which brings me to today, a young man with solid dreams. And I have the Muppets to thank for that.
Today, however, is a sunny, scorching hot day in Oklahoma. It is summer, and I have put my musical theatre training on hold to take on the role of Day Camp counselor. Week after week, I am looking after 60 kids, ages ranging from pre-school to fifth grade. Perhaps it was my Kermit the Frog iPhone case. Perhaps it was the Kermit swimsuit I wear on Pool Day. Perhaps it was my spontaneous performance of “Life’s a Happy Song,” on the bus ride to the zoo. Whatever it was, these kids were well aware of my obsession. And it really seemed to intrigue them.
Captain America hadn’t given up. The question still stood. Why? Why the Muppets? Of all the things to love in the world, why did you pick the singing and dancing frog, Mr. Joel? Why?
It was Superhero Day. The kids were given the chance to come to Day Camp dressed as their favorite superhero. I encouraged a few who couldn’t quite decide who to be to be creative and invent their own hero, and you better believe I had a plan to do just that myself.
I hopped out of my car in full Muppet gear. Head to toe. If I owned Fozzie boxers, you better believe I would be wearing them under my Kermit swimsuit. But, other than that, every piece of my superhero uniform was absolutely Muppetational. Mr. Joel had become my secret identity. For the day, I was Muppet-Man.
As if it were middle school all over again, I initially felt a tinge of embarrassment. The feeling was akin to having to warn a friend before he spent the night that he would be sleeping in the middle of the Muppet museum that was my bedroom. While I am much more confident than I was then, I still feel that I am expected to have “grown up.” To think that I was feeling this pressure from a group of six year olds!
I manned up and walked into the playroom.
I was swamped by mini-Spidermen. I was silly to worry. Of course I was. I am Mr. Joel! Wearing a Muppets Snuggie as a cape doesn’t dampen the level of heroism I have achieved as their counselor. Hey, maybe it even heightens it.
“Have you ever seen the old Muppet Movie?”
I am slightly shocked to hear such a little voice asking me this question. What’s this? Young Muppet knowledge spanning from before November 2011?
A girl named Ellie was pointing enthusiastically at my Muppetational Mosaic t-shirt. I didn’t expect this! Maybe I have underestimated the possibilities of young fandom. Or perhaps overestimated my own.
“Why do you love Kermit so much?”
What do I tell Captain America? Will he be able to comprehend thirteen-plus solid years of experiences with the Muppets? How could he possibly know what they mean to me?
“Why do you love Kermit so much?”
“I just do.”
“Well… He makes me happy.”
My pint-sized Captain America seemed satisfied enough with my answer. And, ya know what? So was I.
Today, I realized how much the Muppets truly mean to me.
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, email@example.com