Justine Sautjeau – First of all, let me tell you that I could write on the Muppets for hours. But I will try to be brief. If I can.
Today, I throw my love for red monsters, talking frogs, and mee-meeing scientists in the world’s face, and I love it. Yet, it seems easier to do so in England than in France, where I live now. Probably because, even though The Muppet Show had a big impact decades ago, it is not such a big deal there anymore.
The Muppet Show was very famous in France in the 1970s/80s in its initial run. Then, years later, a few episodes were broadcast, and my TV turned into a house for strange creatures I had never seen before. I remember finding it scary, too adult, too rude, and above all, too political for me (even though I can’t really remember now if it was that much about politics). I was too young to understand. Where did those creatures come from? Could animals talk? Now that I’m writing this, I search for videos on the Internet… and watching it today, I must admit that the French version does not make me laugh… while the English/US one does a lot! Maybe the translation/humour was not good enough for my little brain.
Even though I was a bit scared of the Muppets and didn’t understand them, I developed a growing interest in puppetry and was fascinated by a puppeteer’s work. Punch and Judy didn’t get much of my attention, but my toys did. Making them talk, play, creating their personalities… it quickly became a part of my life and a way to escape reality. I guess all kids do that. Apart from those toys at home, I didn’t have much of a “Muppety life.” I forgot about The Muppet Show even though I kept Kermit somewhere in my mind, thinking I would give him another chance at some point. I kept an interest for puppets, going to some theatre performances, admiring the craft I couldn’t do myself. Geniuses. They are geniuses. The guys who can go on the stage, control puppets, and make the audience forget about their presence are just geniuses. They can sing, act, do everything, become the ONLY actor on stage, and everybody will stare at the puppets, not the puppeteers. They are just shadows and let their creations have all the attention and compliments. I fell in love with puppetry when I understood how great those guys were. I wished I was one of them, but it sounded too crazy.
So I just focused on watching rather than creating. I watched TV shows, but also films such as Labyrinth (mainly because I am a huge fan of David Bowie). I’ve never managed to say what genre this film is. Comedy? Fantasy? Drama? For me it was just wonderfully weird (in a good way!). But unfortunately, in France, puppetry on TV just included a show with a big orange dinosaur called “Casimir,” and his friends, living in The Children’s Island. He was supposed to be the sweetest monster on Earth. Our Elmo, in some way. I just found it ugly and scary… sorry, Casimir…
Then, a few years later, I discovered Sesame Street–which made up for all the Muppets in the world. Sesame Street didn’t appear in France before 2005, but the internet threw the nice monsters in my face overnight. Elmo, this adorable red monster, quickly became one of my favourite TV personalities. It was a sweeter introduction to Muppets, probably what I needed–even though the Muppets are the sweetest creatures on Earth, which I realized later. Yet I don’t like the show for its innocence, but for Elmo’s hyperactivity which turns him into a crazy uncontrollable creature. To me, Sesame Street is not just for children–nor The Muppet Show. They’re grown-ups shows. This self-awareness, this sarcasm, this craziness and chaos are the representation of what we need in our sad adult life. We need fun, madness, and we need to rediscover kindness and friendship. Realizing that Kermit and his friends just wanted to spread these ideas, I decided it was time to give them another chance.
I figured that the Muppet films would be a good way to go back to them, and rediscover them. I was right! I love their kindness, their idea of a world of acceptance, of keeping a team spirit whatever happens… And seriously, when I watch them, I could pee my pants laughing (it was time to say something a bit gross, I hope you appreciate it). Crazy Miss Piggy fighting, Kermit in ecstasy on his bike, the hospital scene from The Muppets Take Manhattan… these are exactly the kind of scenes that will always make me laugh, even after watching them 1000 times. And, whatever people say, I love Muppets From Space! It might not have had the promotion and production it deserved at its release time, but if you watch it now, you’ll see that it’s all about supporting friends and accepting them for what they are; in short, a real Muppet movie! I was so happy to make up with them. Especially with Fozzie, who is nothing but my alter ego, making jokes whatever people think of them (you’re funny, never give up buddy!).
I sadly realized that Elmo couldn’t play with his Muppets friends anymore since Disney bought Jim Henson’s creatures… and trying to find footage of them all together, I found the videos of Jim Henson funeral, which are just incredible. I’ve never cried that much before. Big Bird’s tribute is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, really. Once again, my love for puppeteers grew more and more while watching those videos…
But now, we’re in 2012, things are not the same… or are they? Last weekend, I happened to see a preview of The Muppets (nope, not released yet in the UK). I was really scared to be disappointed. How could the modern world recreate the amazingness of the Muppets? Will there be too many human scenes? Will it translate the humour and sarcasm of the Muppets? Well, congratulations Jason Segel and team, you did it!! It’s just incredible. I wanted to sing, to cry, I had shivers. I felt the impact of the Muppets’ absence in people’s lives, I felt happiness and nostalgia. The non-stop jokes, musicals scenes, and self-mockery are hilarious. Bret McKenzie deserves his award, and the puppeteers… oh my God… I can’t even find the words to tell you how amazing they are! Hearing “Rainbow Connection” made me think of all the great moments I spent watching either Sesame Street or the Muppets. And it made me feel like something was missing in my life–not only the Muppet Show, but something bigger. Cause the Muppets are also about something deeper that you can’t really explain.
Yes, it is probably a very personal script by Jason Segel; the script of a fan desperate to see his favourite comedians back on screen. Yet, it is a great tribute to Jim Henson’s world and creation. Thank you, Mister Henson.
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, email@example.com