The British Correspondent – Welcome world, to my mind, the mind of me, the British Correspondent. It is here that I spend far too much time debating and discussing the inner art of the Muppets and not enough time choosing what to have for lunch (which is why I am typing this whilst hungry, since apparently the shops closed while I was inner monologuing about the deeper meaning of Miss Piggy’s varying hair lengths and colours in the new Muppets movie The Muppets).
But enough about me, I am of course here to discuss a few preliminary thoughts relating to the continuing presentation of the Muppets as art (Mupart) on the canvas of their every production, appearance, word and deed (of course, I do not count any productions, words or deeds that I have not seen myself… but you may feel free to create your own Muppet canvas and I hope to see it up for purchase on Red Bubble soon!)
I was lucky enough to make it to the press screening of The Muppets in London last weekend… well, lucky and in possession of wax-lips, a plastic-moustache, and incriminating photos of the lovely lady on the door who was more than happy to let me through (note: None of the above paragraph is true except the press screening part) and so I will be presenting one or two thoughts having only seen the production once and they will almost certainly be filled in (and coloured by numbers) through future viewings.
The Muppets: Here we are NOW (where were we THEN?)
Fox News was quick to lampoon the new Muppet movie as portraying messages which are anti-corporate, brainwashing, and potentially Marxist in their apparent views on big-business and the oil industry as demonstrated through the portrayal of Tex Richman and the Muppets reaction to his property development plans. Although the debate continues as to whether this viewpoint holds up against further examination, there was one truth which their discussion did bring to light. This (and all) movie(s) contain(s) a number of messages (whether intentional or unintentional, subtle or noticeable, picked up by the conscious or the subconscious) and those messages can be interpreted as bold statements, especially when framed by imagery that is more often seen as childish (colourful foam) and silly (talking frogs, pigs in wigs). Exploring the messages enacted within scenes, musical-numbers, motivational speeches and character development is at the very heart of the Mupart project, and for now there is one such message within the movie which intrigues and excites me.
“Our little group has always been, and always will until the end.” – Nirvana
Much focus within the art world and lyrical canvas of recent artists has been upon the idea that we are able to create within ourselves the person (or truth/present /reality) that we decide to be (believe in/live in/exist in). Certainly this is something which can be identified as a theme within the focus on the meta-existence of the Muppets in promotional material for The Muppets (“OK Go and The Muppets: The Muppet Show Theme Song”/”The Pig with the Froggy Tattoo”), but it could be further argued that certain elements of the movie itself represent an existence that moves not only forward through current decisions, but backward through the influences that led to the created present.
The illustration of this point was not so much seen as felt, and not so much felt in what was noticed as that which went unnoticed. (And the author is aware that these sensations are subjective, rather than objective, but hopes the feelings are parallel to those felt by the readers also upon the first or second viewing of The Muppets.) Within the movie, four classic Muppets unite to sing a barbershop quartet version of the famous Nirvana song “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” and somehow, by the time we reach this point in the movie the Muppets have managed to rewrite their current position as a troupe so effectively that it seems incredibly normal to see Muppets such as Link Hogthrob and Rowlf center stage. It was, in fact, so natural at the time that it was not until after I had finished watching the movie that I realized how mind-blowingly incredible it was to have seen them there on that day.
The Muppets have been around for a long time (acknowledged within the movie as their whole history is paraded before us through the viewings of newcomer Walter) and throughout that time many changes have occurred, not least being cast and crew adjustments that left certain characters sidelined while new one moved in to take their place. Thus far, their approach to continual renewal of self has reflected current opinion that people can (should?) make choices and take steps to recreate themselves as something that meets their current needs (parts of yourself packed away in boxes, while new outfits or aspects of your life take the forefront within your new job role, house or romance) but as with almost anything they approach (genres, interviews, stereotypes) the Muppets manage to turn this opinion upside down.
Far from rewriting or denying their past (except for setting it in the 80s, not so much the 70s) the Muppets instead embrace their past with open hands, mouths, and minds. Scenes of The Muppet Show, music from their old movies, imagery from famous episodes and reproduced songs are woven tightly into the fabric of the movie, so much so that when characters from the past and brought forward to the now (Link, Rowlf, Scooter) it is justified rather than jarring to a point where it would have seemed more unnatural to not seen them than to see them.
The way in which they managed to bring the audience back to the past while staying in the present was so powerfully understated that when I noticed it after the fact, it became a focal point for my reference to the movie, especially because it appeared to counteract everything that I had written (and read) about the recreation of self up to this point. Much talk has been made of leaving the past in the past and rewriting yourself with no faults from THIS point forward, while The Muppets takes an alternate approach by demonstrating that you can embrace your past (failures and successes) and mix it with your current (oh look, Pepe!) to create a present that is stronger than ever and natural as can be.
That is what I took from this movie; what did you take from it?
Mupart to be continued with no denial of its past.
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, email@example.com