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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Kermit Rocks

In case our readers don't know, El Presidente (that's me, Owen McCuen) is a voice actor with an ear for cartoons and stuff.  Not so long ago, a friend commented on my rendition of Rainbow Connection, "Wow, you do a  really good Kermit the Frog."  My response was, "Thanks!  I've been practicing for about thirty years."  If you'd like to hear Kermit and a host of other characters, check out my website.  Click HERE.

Okay, enough shameless self-promotion--Let's talk Muppets.  I was born in 1974.  Sesame Street was in full swing and The Muppet Show was about to come to life, with a pilot in 1975 and the show proper appearing from 1976 until 1981.  The original Muppet Movie opened in 1979, followed by The Great Muppet Caper in 1981 and The Muppets Take Manhattan in 1984, so my childhood was completely informed by Jim Henson's dream.  Henson reached kids and grown ups alike with Frank Oz by his side.  Oz is a genius puppeteer who also brought us Yoda, in case you forgot...

Children's programming has used puppets forever, and programs like Captain Kangaroo, Captain Noah's Magical Ark, The Candy Apple News Company, Fraggle Rock, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, and others like them brought fabric to life and gave these puppets personalities.  They became friends that kids looked forward to interacting with, even if only by watching them and laughing at their antics.

But no single character has ever become so real to me as Kermit the Frog.  I have laughed and cried with Kermit, and he's pretty much my hero.

Why is Kermit the Frog more human than many of the people I've met?  Maybe it's his creator's energy that comes through.  Kermit and Henson are big dreamers.  I know that Jim Henson is no longer physically present, but his dreams are imprinted upon history.  The shows and films will live forever because the dream is not simply to entertain.  For me, Jim Henson's dream seems to be to teach people (kids in particular)... HOW to dream.  If you believe in yourself hard enough, others will begin to believe in you as well.  And when your self-confidence wanes and you begin to doubt yourself, your true friends will be there to pick you up.

Kermit does the truly human work of developing meaningful relationships with his friends.  Many crazy Muppet characters have wild personalities, but we frequently remember them by their relationship to Kermit.  Sesame Street's characters do this wonderfully (again, Henson and Oz), but Kermit's role as the chief dreamer and host of The Muppet Show puts him in the unique position of juggling these personalities and organizing them into the controlled chaos that makes The Muppet Show so gloriously corny and entertaining.

So Kermit becomes the unlikely leader of this rag-tag crew!  He's not a type A personality, but he is surrounded by lots of kooks trying to hog up the stage.  With Fozzie and his jokes, Lew Zealand's boomerang fish, Gonzo's cannon antics, and countless others trying to grab a bit of limelight, Kermit has to tame these loonies and produce a decent show.  Meanwhile, Statler and Waldorf are raining down insults, Crazy Harry is trying to blow everything up, and Sam the Olympic Eagle is squelching everyone's creativity.   Link Hogthrob's ego is no joke, by the way.  Oh, and who is more pushy and bossy than Miss Piggy?  With all of these alpha Muppets, Kermit should be overwhelmed, right?  But he is the reluctant leader.  When things go awry, who do they all run to?  Kermit.

Kermit loves.  He cares.  People trust him because they know that he just wants everything to be okay.  Kermit lives for his friends, who become his family.  And when the family succeeds, Kermit himself will share the joy.  This is why the other Muppets love him and trust him.  They know that the world is a big, scary place but Kermit's skinny green arms can provide a hug that gives people a safe place to dream those big dreams.

Kermit has been my friend since I was a kid.  The new Muppet film The Muppets made me laugh out loud because of the inside jokes that only Muppet fans would get.  I cried, too.  I think I will review the film after I watch it again.  You can check out the trailer for yourself:

But since I consider him a friend, how about having a beer with him?  That would be awesome!!  Gerard Walen from Road Trips for Beer wrote an article about the subject, and it is well worth checking out!  His assessments of the Muppets and their brews of choice are so dead on that Gerard must certainly be a rabid Muppet fan to know their personalities so well.  Read Road Trips for Beer's Muppet article HERE.

I would love to hang out with Kermit.  In fact, I've tried to live my life like he does.  WWKD? Kermit sees some of the circumstances in his life that could be bummers, but he makes the most of them.  His color, for example.  If you think that the song Green hasn't helped children all around the world realize that being different can be beautiful, you are dead wrong.  And if you feel like crying, just check out Big Bird's tribute to Kermit at Jim Henson's funeral:

Okay, that was mean.  I shouldn'ta oughta done that.  But it just goes to show how important Jim Henson's vision really was and is to everyone who shares it.  The emotion in Carroll Spinney's voice is just as moving as the words he sings.  And I hope it isn't lost on the readers of Ferment Nation.  If it is, then I'm afraid your cold, dead hearts are pumping ice water through your dirty veins.

I have very fond memories of watching The Muppet Show with my parents when I was a kid.  I couldn't ask for better parents (Love you, mom!!).   So, to tie this all together and make it really personal, I'll tell you a little about someone else I wish I could have a beer with: my dad.  He passed away on September 10, 2007.  There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about him and miss him.  My dad was a football coach for darn near his whole life, beginning when he was just a teenager, and many of the kids he coached have gone on to become coaches themselves... And their players will grow up to be coaches as well, and so his legacy survives.  Dad had a special place in his heart for those kids on the sidelines who couldn't play for one reason or another.  He affectionately called them his, "sick, lame, lazy, and crazy," but they NEVER felt like they were excluded from the team because everyone has something to contribute.  Similarly, yet on a larger scale, Jim Henson and Kermit the Frog have touched the lives of countless millions, including those people who needed to be taught that it was okay to dream, and necessary to believe in yourself.  Why? Because everyone has something to contribute.

When I die, I'm figuring I will find some kind of heavenly afterlife (hope they have beer).  And when I get there, I won't be on the sidelines.  I won't even be in the stands.  No, I'll be on the field, playing the game the best I know how-- the way my dad taught me and the way Kermit taught me.  Winning team?  You guessed it...The lovers, the dreamers, and me.


Chuck Baudelaire said...

Stumbled across this post looking for a Kermit picture for my own blog. Your observations are dead-on and match my own feelings exactly. Love me some Kermit. Thanks for a great post! :)

MuleyTheMule.com said...

Great article. My "Kermit and Jim" image is used properly, thanks for that. You can read the origin of the image here: http://muleycomix.blogspot.com/2012/02/in-reflection-frog-and-his-man.html

Owen McCuen said...

Thanks for the kind words, Chuck! Cheers!

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