Hey, hey! Welcome to another Muppet Mindset day! It's Sunday again, so that means it's once again time for Kelly Masters (aka RedPiggy) to present us an article discussing Muppet Central Forum's fan-fiction. This is the fifth and last installment of Kelly's series.
Can You Tell Me How to Get
Kelly Masters (RedPiggy on Muppet Central Forums) - I’d like to start by being honest on this topic. When I asked the question: What is your favorite Sesame Street fan-fic, I didn’t know what kind of responses I’d get. I had seen plenty of “scripts” of brief number gags and such, but I had never really read a full story based on these characters. I got at least two votes for two of the mentioned responses, so I have decided to review The Search for Bert by redBoobergurl and Street Smarts by theprawncracker.
The Search for Bert
After a helpful brief synopsis (and I find it amusing that it advertises itself as “pre-Elmo”, as if it hopes to get more readers that way), the first paragraph gives us an overview of the major characters and what their typical thing was on the show, and then settles down with Ernie and Bert, two popular (and heavily parodied) characters from the show, who share an apartment deep within 123 Sesame Street.
This is just a formatting nitpick, but the first chapter doesn’t separate dialogue from different characters. Another poster on the forums quickly points this out, and it becomes less of a problem.
Oscar the Grouch instigates an argument between Bert and Ernie. Ernie is well characterized, as he continues to both let himself get talked into things and also talks himself into other ideas. Bert, meanwhile, flies off the handle yet becomes pensive when he realizes he may have hurt Ernie’s feelings. He also has moments with his pigeons as he tries to decide how to make things better.
As Bert goes missing, having joined the circus, and I mean this in the nicest way, you get a sense of how naïve a lot of the characters are on the show. Joining the circus is a typical child fantasy and an adult would’ve asked about W-4’s and health insurance and contracts and stuff. Bert, having done none of these things, just goes with it as if he has no other option. It kind of makes you wonder how old Ernie and Bert are supposed to be, as they can rent their own apartment, and yet rarely act like practical adults (employed practical adults). Oh well. Like I said, it’s not a bad thing, and it’s consistent with the show’s characterizations, it’s just something I can’t help muse on while I read.
Another thing that I just can’t help thinking about: why is it, when a children’s story discusses running away, the runaway always ends up with a less-than-legitimate business or group of people? I realize that if a runaway found someone nice and helpful, it’d be teaching kids that running away may not be that bad, but is it really necessary to terrify children with statistically less-likely scenarios? Again, this isn’t a complaint about the story, just a thought, a musing I was considering as I read.
Actually, the author ends up saying that Bert did sign a contract, though it was never mentioned previously. All that was described was a handshake. This is one of those things that should have been brought up earlier. It makes the scene seem tacked on to fix a plot hole.
Big Bird is a child, and I mean that in a good way. He just enjoys life and has a very short attention span. Maria gets paired up with Oscar again (as the movie Follow That Bird was a big inspiration). They nag each other and I still can’t help thinking that Oscar may have had or has a thing for Maria, as they’ve been “friends” since she showed up on the show (as far as I’m aware – I’m not that old).
Eventually, we discover at least one other interesting circus tale before Bert and the others decide to save themselves. From one perspective, its heartening to see everyone pull together. From another, well, if they’re all that unhappy – why not just knock the guy off a cliff or empty the brake fluid or something? You can’t tell me a bunch of athletic unhappy people can’t take care of some greedy good-for-nothing. On the other hand, this is a Sesame Street story, not a hardcore crime drama, so I guess it can be forgiven. However, it does bug me when “child friendly” equates to “adults acting stupid”. I wonder if Follow That Bird could even be made today: just one Amber alert and people would just swarm over Big Bird. There’d be cellphone pics all over the internet. Sigh. I’ll shut up now….
I think the best part of this story is that the rescuee soon becomes the rescuer. That’s a twist that gives it much needed originality (not that it was just a carbon copy of the afore-mentioned movie anyway, but it did follow a formula). It really made me excited. It would have been hard for Follow That Bird to have such a twist, since Big Bird is only six – but as Bert is at least a young adult, that affords a greater opportunity to make such a twist sound realistic.
This story starts off with a funny Super Grover bit and a run through the theme song as if it were obligatory. Mayor Twiddlebug is revealed to have a deed to Sesame Street. This character kind of reminds me of Stan the Bunch Beetle from Dinosaurs. He has the same dry wit and flirtatiousness. It’s amazing to be reading this story just after writing about an evil businessman owning Sesame Street (sigh … I’m sorry … I really am trying to avoid self-plugs … just consider mine a subplot and not the main one – I’ll shut up now).
Anyway, the story behind the deed just makes your jaw drop. I don’t want to say more than that as I will give too much away.
One of the early high points is Grover and Kermit’s relationship. Grover acts like a big kid, but occasionally lets a little grown-up humor blurt out. It’s the kind of Street characterization I can get into. Kermit is a really amazing character … as a kind of everyman, he can be portrayed the same over and over and over and over again, and yet it never really seems that stale. He is the responsible manager, the glue that holds others together. This is such a part of his character, that the only real thing the official Muppet folks could think of when Kermit wishes he had never been born in It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie. Driving his friends apart and making them all depressed. Kermit is never boring. He is steadfast. He is never stale. He is reliable. Even if someone is a horrible writer, you’d have to really work to make Kermit “wrong”.
At one point, Miles notes he’s been on Sesame Street nearly twenty years. I’m thirty-one. I can’t gripe as bad as my mother, who was in high school when the show started, but still – that makes me feel ancient!
Another high point is Ernie and Bert. It’s positively lovely when their chemistry is matched in a story, and that is definitely present here. Ernie knows Bert so well: how to make him laugh, what buttons to push, and how to finish sentences.
Prawnie (theprawncracker’s nickname) really works hard to include just about every sketch or concept from the entire show, from the theme song to naming obscure characters (or, actually, retired ones) to Prairie Dawn sketches. If you’ve rarely or never seen the show, this story does a pretty good job of summarizing the main points. Prairie Dawn’s play is quite amusing, almost to the point you could actually imagine it being a real sketch.
I had to giggle when Miles and Gabriella end up in the Don’t Drop Inn, a grouch motel.
I’ve had vacations like that….
Not surprisingly, it will take the traditional Muppet teamwork to save the day.
Maybe you don’t like Sesame Street. Maybe, you think characters who can have casual conversations about letters and numbers are too weird to read about.
You are missing out, my friend.