1 The Muppet Mindset: Muppet Central Fan-Fiction Article #1

Aug 30, 2009

Muppet Central Fan-Fiction Article #1

Today, the Mindset proudly welcomes Muppet Central Forum's RedPiggy. RedPiggy is here with her first article discussing the fan-fiction of the Muppet Central Forums. She started a fan-fiction survey on the forums that led her to her article topics. This is a great way for more readers to visit the great fan-fictions of the site, and also a great way for writers' names to get out there. So, without further ado, here's the first article:

The Principle Players

By Kelly Masters (RedPiggy from Muppet Central Forums) - Fan-created fiction, or fan-fiction/fan-fic for short, is a staple of fandom. Especially the fandom of Muppet Central Forum. They can be just derivative, poorly written scripts with minor tweaks to existing shows or movies – or they can be lovingly crafted works of literary art that deepen the characters in ways never really addressed in official media. This is the first of my reviews of some of those fanfics that manage to lean towards the latter.

To avoid looking vain by plugging my own (painful as it is for me to do so), I posted a survey where other Muppet Central Forum members could offer suggestions on which fan-fics to review. The first question read as follows: "Which fic or fics in your opinion best reflect the characterizations of the major Muppet characters (please list the characters, such as Kermit, Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo, Scooter, Rowlf, the Electric Mayhem)? Let's keep it to these characters for this question, shall we?"

Based on the responses, I have decided to review three stories authored by Muppet Central members: TogetherAgain’s Half of the Stairs Are Missing, TogetherAgain’s Summer in the Theater, and WhiteRabbit’s Coming of the Roads.

Half of the Stairs Are Missing
Amusingly, we begin with a fourth-wall-breaking prologue, as the author thinks of things to write about and faces elements of her other stories. It is like reading a story of a dying person visiting long-gone relatives on a trip through the afterlife. We begin with a bunch of dialogue, only some of which is attributed. I suppose it doesn’t really matter, but it’s just a small pet peeve of mine when I don’t know who is talking, even though the dramatically important conversations are attributed. However, such a beginning does contribute to a sense of chaos, which fits right in with Muppety goodness.

Oh, and if you aren’t quite used to forum-based fan-fics, be prepared to read reviews in between chapters. That can be helpful or extremely frustrating. However, it’s so common that it’s downright bizarre if you manage to read a fic that actually has chapters one right after another.
The end of the first chapter reveals that this will be somewhat dramatic. I, personally, like dramatic fan-fics better, since it’s a nice change of pace from silly fluff.

Right away, what is obvious is that no one acts out of character. Even if nothing like this ever happened (the closest being Kermit’s disappearance in The Muppets Take Manhattan and even the memorial special after the death of Jim Henson), everyone reacts to a stark event perfectly. Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if that memorial special was part of the inspiration for this particular story.

Other than the tear-jerking Kermit and Robin and Fozzie, one of the characters I find most fascinating is Rowlf. On The Muppet Show, Rowlf played a wise-cracking veterinarian. Here, he seems to maintain an interest and ability in all things medical. However, he’s much more subdued since this isn’t a comedy. It almost makes one wonder if, in this fan-fic universe, Rowlf didn’t just play a doctor on TV, but actually had some real experience with the subject.

Another high point is Piggy. She isn’t the shallow pop diva in this story. She is the vulnerable, caring -- though persistent -- Miss Piggy. If anyone ever gets tired of Diva Piggy in some of her more modern appearances, this would be a good story to remember what she can be.

The power of this story is the attention to all the relevant details of a tragedy, from family relationships, friendship, grief, and hope. TogetherAgain smartly adds in a few quips and running gags (particularly physician names), but it only serves to break up the gloomy atmosphere. Fortunately, it doesn’t replace it. Also, by chapter nine, the point of the physician name running gag becomes clear … and it’s quite a clever joke. The irritating thing is that I didn’t really figure that to be the joke as I was originally thinking it was just foreshadowing. How can the geek in me not catch that? Argh!
Gonzo also gets his chance to shine after the ever-responsible Kermit succeeds in comforting Fozzie, who is whimpering with fear. The wonderful thing about being the outcast Whatever is that he can be warm and compassionate and then say something completely bizarre … and yet it still works.

And though it’s rather silly, the political news coming from the Muppet Newsman at one point is hilarious precisely because one can imagine certain stations having such a story….

While this story is, as of this writing, unfinished, it’s still a very good read, though some may want to bring along some extra tissues and security blankets.

Summer in the Theater
This story by TogetherAgain is also quite dramatic. However, this time around, the mood is a bit lighter, with more jokes and puns than in the previously reviewed piece. A dark figure has a mission to rip off the financially struggling Muppet Theater.

I’ll take this moment to stop and mention Scooter. He appeared in the last fic, but I’d like to mention him here. If you have ever seen The Devil Wears Prada (a movie I have a hard time sitting through), the character Andrea Sachs has to learn to be an ultra-efficient assistant to a strict business woman in the fashion magazine world. In the beginning of The Muppet Show, Scooter is a whiny suck-up employed only due to nepotism. However, he stops this and becomes a more valued employee. In these two stories, Scooter is almost too perfect. If I hadn’t seen that Prada movie, I would be tempted to call Scooter unrealistically helpful. However, I believe I’ve changed my mind and can appreciate him more.

I think I’ll take this time to mention Fozzie as well. He’s not nearly as shaken as he was in the previously reviewed story, but then again there’s no real reason for him to be. Fozzie is presented again as less the failed comic and more the insecure ever-giving best friend of Kermit the Frog. I suppose it’s just as well: I would guess it takes a great comic to write a bad one.

This story has obviously been influenced by It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie. However, it isn’t too derivative. There is also a greater sense of hope here than in that TV special, as they aren’t beset by a rigid threat to their money. The thief definitely gets your mind working on its identity. I found myself guessing who it could be throughout the story. There’s also a feeling of familiarity with The Muppets Take Manhattan, specifically the Muppets trying to help Kermit out with money troubles. The idea of pulling together in a crisis may not be very original, but it is Muppets at its best.

Another high point is the Electric Mayhem band. When it comes time to wash cars to raise money, their “solution” is spot on.

Also brightening the mood in spots are some very clever cameos, human and Muppet alike. Cameos are always part and parcel of the entire Muppet experience, and they are very well done, even if they do start to become a running gag.

Since there’s been homage paid to just about every other property, I also began to smell some nods to The Great Muppet Caper – which really started my brain to lean towards a prospective identity for the dark figure. However, the whole thief plot, like a lot of Muppet plots, is really just an excuse for character development, which isn’t bad. The Muppets fail hardest when character takes a back seat to the plot.

Now, personally, a letter that Kermit gets feels as though it was written by yours truly. I have to wonder just how many fans of the Muppets actually feel that way, that the Muppets were the gold under the rainbow, the diamond in the rough, the cream in our coffee, the icing on our cake – the one lonely light in a massive sea of darkness. The Muppets are all that and more. Fan-fiction helps some of us try to give back, albeit unofficially, some of that love we felt we got from them.

The true identity of the thief wasn’t at all who I expected, but the rationale for the crimes was pure genius. This particular story is finished, and I definitely recommend it.

Coming of the Roads

For the final story in this review, we leave the usual Kermit stories and shine a spotlight directly on the Electric Mayhem and its members (Dr. Teeth, Floyd Pepper, Janice, Zoot, Lips, and Animal). On The Muppet Show, the band was basically the band. While we sometimes saw them backstage, they rarely got plots of their very own. In this story, the band is taking a break from the theater to go off on a private gig. Right away there is a lot more description with character appearances than in the first two. One thing one has to get used to if new to fan-fiction is that many authors just assume you know who they are talking about. The problem with this is that it isn’t very helpful for those trying to come in to the fandom. While all three of these stories aren’t exactly good “newbie” stories, introducing the characters, this one does describe things a little clearer.

This story is a bit different in that Zoot and Lips seem, well, more than friends. I don’t recall it being canon, but it does add some depth to two of the most underused band members. It’s pretty much based on some role-playing done in the Muppet Central Forums, so many of the members are just used to it by now. However, this story is still tasteful and thoughtful, with nothing gratuitous. So, if you aren’t used to certain things, don’t get scared away the second someone holds hands. You’d only be cheating yourself out of a good story.

The mood gets considerably darker, though, as their gig ends up in a cesspool of a slum. The Electric Mayhem find a child carelessly thrown away and take her under their wing. The best part is that, even in the first chapter, everyone has moments that help you get a good grasp of how they act, feel, and think.
Dr. Teeth is a flashy urban keyboardist. He himself had to scrape up the financial ladder, starting from a troubled urban childhood.

Janice isn’t just some airhead blonde. She is thoughtful and compassionate. Her motherly instincts pop up fairly easily.

Floyd is easily the Kermit of the group, the mostly laid-back guy who just sort of goes with the flow. The only difference is that Floyd doesn’t let things weigh him down like Kermit does.

This story, as of this writing, isn’t finished. However, it’s very deep and thoughtful and a good protest against bigotry and a proclamation of just how much hope is needed in an environment filled with hopelessness.

Special thanks to RedPiggy, TogetherAgain, and WhiteRabbit for writing! Also, a huge amount of thanks to frogboy4 for contributing most of the pictures used in todays article! Check back again soon for more of RedPiggy's Fan-Fiction Articles!

2 comments:

  1. Since the discovery of the internet, Fanfics for tv-series have long been a necessary part of Fandom -- you can find some for almost any tv-series, or movie.

    It's great to have somewhere reviewing and monitoring this process for us, and guiding in the right direction.

    Fanfics are so important for adding depth and flavour to characters and (in my opinion) make watching the tv-series and movies a much more intimate thing, when you know what motivates the characters, how they feel, etc.

    Tak for article!

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  2. RedPiggy,

    I just wanted to thank you for these reviews. I am the MC forums all the time (unclematt) and post quite a bit however I have never gotten into the fan/fic section. Because of these reviews I am going to give it a good look over and you may have opened my eyes to a whole new aspect of the MC forums.

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