Tuesday, September 30, 2014

#WeirdEd Week 25- The Muppets

Last week would have been Jim Henson's 78th birthday. A few days ago Jim Windish wrote a fantastic blog about his love for the Muppets and the ways that they inspired him and I wanted to Ms. Piggy-back on that for #WeirdEd, for I too love the Muppets. I love nearly everything about them and what they represent.

My favorite author of all time is Dr Seuss. He is the greatest author ever. Period. Full stop. Seuss wrote silly stories that were subtly (and not so subtly) subversive. He got generations of children thinking about equality and fairness and war and differences without bashing us over the head with it.

Henson did the same thing on television. Think about Sesame Street.

Not one character looked the same. Some were similar, but none were the same. This is social engineering at its finest. This mad cast of characters lived together along with a incredibly diverse, by ethnicity and gender, human cast. They solved problems, worked together, sang, danced, and played. And generations of kids watched it unquestioningly. Sure, we learned to be a little ADD and they whipped some math and spelling and other skills on us, but the main unspoken message of the show was one of community.

The Muppet movies are (mostly) good-to-genius, especially if you like silly sight gags like I do. Or maybe I like silly sight gags because I love the Muppets.

The main characters embody all the archetypes and even invented a few. Kermit is the leader who has it all under control, or at least appears to. Fozzy is the comic relief. Gonzo is the whatever (my favorite). Piggy is not the love interest, but the strong, aggressive female who kicks serious butt and is still feminine. There are scientists, a band you know was stoned all the time, depressed monsters, monsters with impulse control disorders, imaginary friends, an eight-foot tall canary who was the embodiment of childhood, and old men taking the wind out of their sails and keeping their feet on the ground. And that's just a tiny fraction. The Muppet Show was insane, a meta joke about late night shows aimed at children who hadn't seen late night shows. Stars would come on, but play their characters. I won't even pretend that that level of awareness and silliness hasn't permeated my classroom.

This week we embrace Jim Henson and his Muppets. What they taught us. What we can learn. How we can grow from them. And remember, this is all coming from a guy who has his own classroom monster.

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