July 15, 2011

"[W]atching Steve Whitmire’s Kermit is akin to watching someone imitate a mythic and longed-for mother..."

"... my mother — wearing a my-mother costume in a my-mother dance routine. This person’s heart is in the right place, which only makes it worse. 'You should be happy,' the person pleads with me, 'Look, Biddy! Your mother is not gone! She is still here'” Now, no one would ever do that. No one in her right mind would think it would work. A child knows his mother’s voice like he knows whether it's water or air he's breathing. One chokes you and one gives you life. Strangely, I feel the same about Kermit. Whitmire is an amazing performer — especially as the lovable dog Sprocket on 'Fraggle Rock' — but, when he's on screen as Kermit, I can feel my body reject it on a cellular level."

Elizabeth Stevens, still mourning the loss of Jim Henson (via Throwing Things).

Here's a little clip showing Sprocket (getting Doc to say "Fraggle"):

If you were a fan of "Fraggle Rock," you may remember that the Fraggles called Doc's workroom "outer space," and if you're an incredibly hardcore fan of the Althouse blog, you may remember that that there is a room in my house that we call "outer space." We've been calling it that since the '80s.


Fred4Pres said...

One thing I love about your blogging Ann is how you can tie several threads together with a theme. Friday is Puppet Day.

Palladian said...

You know, I was just thinking about the time you decided to sell your house and move into that condo. It came to mind when I ready your comment about the new site yesterday. Is Althou.se the Loraine redux?

Palladian said...

What Elizabeth Stevens wrote about Whitmire's Kermit reminds me of the sense of smell. People always gas on about how smell has the greatest ability, among the rest of the senses, to transport one "back in time" and to conjure up old memories. But this has nothing at all to do with some mystical powers on the part of the sense of smell, it has to do with the fact that a smell has to be exactly the same to trigger scent memory. You have to smell the exact same molecules for the memory to come bubbling up. If you don't, it doesn't happen. This is what makes the sense of smell seem magical; it's just rare that the correct buttons get pushed, and you notice it when it happens.

The same for the new Kermit. The voice, the movements, they're not right and if you have a strong memory of Henson's Kermit, any other person doing it is going to fail to hit the right spots. Kermit becomes uncanny, like a doppelgänger.

I grew up loving the Muppets (though never Sesame Street, which always seemed too slow and too kid-oriented, even when I was a kid). I even spent a good part of my childhood planning to be a puppeteer. But when Henson died, I never watched any new Muppet productions again. I always though that they should retire his characters when Henson died, and thought the same when Richard Hunt (Scooter, Beaker, Janice, Statler, Sweetums &c) died. But that would have taken out half the Muppet universe. I guess, for younger people who never watched Henson or Hunt or the rest, the show must go on.

Jube said...

What, so we should just not have any new Kermit for children who are actually children now? Because she remembers it differently? This will be the real Kermit for the young 'uns.

Moose said...

OMG, Fraggle Rock blew massive chunks.

Anonymous said...

Family Guy did a bit on this years ago. The Youtube clip goes straight to the wrong-sounding muppets without the set-up, but the set up was something about ignore a fever and the next thing you know we have wrong sounding muppets.


Jason said...

Jim Henson was the single greatest entertainer that ever walked the Earth.

Carol_Herman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jenny said...

sweetest Jim Henson tribute ever -


JAL said...

My oldest daughter (in her twenties then) rejected the Muppet Christmas Carol (I think the first full length muppet movie post Henson's death) as the Henson son did Kermit.

It's still a sweet story and a regular watch during the season for us.

I haven't followed them in recent years, so Whitmire's Kermit would be new to me.

I remember walking out of The Muppet Movie a gazillion years ago saying "*That* was great."

But I'm good with a new Kermit, knowing that there isn't anything like the Real Kermit.

The show must go on ...

Tyrone Slothrop said...

My wife and I got into Fraggle Rock a couple of years before we had any kids. It was a great, funny, imaginative show. My wife especially liked the Doozers. My favorite was Uncle Traveling Matt. Some time after I learned what a traveling matte was.

Penny said...

This article was SO well written, so evocative, that I actually missed the Muppets that I never watched beyond flipping from one channel on my TV to the next.

If I had a hat, I would take it off. Then, placing one foot slightly in front of the other, sweep that hat low to the ground in appreciation.

Wouldn't even give a shit that women don't do that...generally. No one WRITES this well...generally.

Penny said...

Not to mention there was a whole helluva lot of neural firings going on before that.

Jason said...

Heather Alexander.

Imagine a folk act that is beyond all parody.

Now parody it.

Now parody it again.

Now parody the parody of the parody.

Nope. It's worse than that.