1 The Muppet Mindset: When Muppets Don't Believe

Dec 4, 2010

When Muppets Don't Believe

Michael Wermuth, Jr. - Anything can happen in a fantasy universe, especially in the various Henson universes. There all all kinds of Muppets, including frogs, bears, pigs, talking food, Muppaphones, Snuffleupaguses, Anything Muppets, Whatnots, and whatever. And I believe former Palisades Toys developer Ken Lilly said it best many times when asked about certain things for the Muppet action figure line: “Anything is possible”.

So why, then, have there been many occasions when a Muppet character saw something happen but wasn’t believed by others? Such things have happened many times, in the worlds of the Muppets, Sesame Street, and Fraggle Rock, and I’m going to list some of them.

1. Mr. Snuffleupagus

One of the biggest and perhaps most obvious examples I can think of comes from Sesame Street seasons 3-16: The adults didn’t believe that Mr. Snuffleupagus was real. Mr. Snuffleupagus would often come around, and Big Bird would often try to convince the adults to come and see Snuffy, but the character would be out of sight for some reason by the time other characters showed up to see him. Sometimes he’d be right near a character who didn’t believe in him, yet they wouldn’t even turn their heads until he’d left. And at times he’d be right in front of them but something would be blocking their view (such as Luis holding a stack of boxes over his head).

And oddly enough, it was easy for the kids to see him, and some of the other Muppets saw him. Why couldn’t the adults have just believed them? Did the main adults have to see him in order for it to be official that Snuffy was real? And considering how hard it was for Big Bird to get his friends to see Snuffy, it’s a wonder it didn’t continue to be hard to get them to see Snuffy even after they finally saw that he is real. Is it required to believe in a Snuffleupagus for it to not be magically elusive?

But as we all know, the adults did eventually see that Mr. Snuffleupagus is real, and since then they’ve had no trouble seeing him or any other Snuffleupaguses.

2. Fraggles

Throughout the run of Fraggle Rock, Doc didn’t see the Fraggles. Sprocket often saw Gobo coming out of the Fraggle hole to get his Uncle Matt’s postcards.  Doc often heard Sprocket barking at Gobo, but didn’t know what he was barking at. Then again, despite what fans seem to say on forums I don’t think Doc knew Sprocket was trying to convince him that something was living through the Fraggle hole for most of the show’s run (though in A Muppet Family Christmas, which aired after the show ended and Doc had finally met Gobo, upon seeing the Muppets for the first time he says “Tell me, Sprocket, are these a little like those Fraggles you keep telling me about?”).

Of course in “Uncle Matt Comes Home” Doc becomes convinced that something is living past the hole after hearing Gobo shout “Whoopie!” And in “The River of Life” after finally being convinced that something is living in that hole Doc comments that Sprocket had been trying to convince him for year. Finally, in “The Honk of Honks," Doc does experiments to see if there is life beyond the hole in the wall, and at the beginning he looks directly at Gobo but can’t see or hear him, signaling that some silly creatures can’t see or hear Fraggles. But at the end Gobo learns that Gobo should let the silly creature touch him (emotionally) and then touch the silly creature, and Doc finally sees Gobo.

Of course Doc’s disbelief in Fraggles can be explained: Fraggle Rock is a separate continuity from the Muppets. None of the familiar Muppet characters appeared on Fraggle Rock, and Fraggle Rock is a magical fantasy world inhabited by a hole in the wall next to the real world. Besides Sprocket (who is portrayed as a real dog, though he does do some things dogs can’t do) there are no Muppet characters seen in “outer space” who are from this world. Doc isn’t aware of this fantasy world, and in this universe the real world is as real as our real world (for now let’s assume that Fraggle Rock and A Muppet Family Christmas are two separate continuities). Doc doesn’t live in a world of fantasy creatures, even though they exist nearby.

3. Gonzo’s Alien Family

In Muppets from Space, Gonzo learns that he is an alien (a fact that has rarely been acknowledged officially after the movie was released), yet it takes a long time for his Muppet friends to believe him. Which is odd: Kermit frequently interviewed aliens from the planet Koozebane (though you could argue that those creatures were really earth animals pretending to be creatures from other planets), aliens crashed into the theater in the episode with Jonathan Winters, and Kermit had encountered the Martians from Sesame Street on a few occasions. So why wouldn’t Kermit at least believe that aliens exist?

It’s also unusual that while most of the other Muppets don’t believe Gonzo, the public at large does (as does K. Edgar Singer). Gonzo’s friends also don’t seem to believe that he was told where his family would land by a talking sandwich (actually an alien channeling his voice through the sandwich), despite the fact that the Muppet world includes talking food.

4. Ernie Statue

In a classic Sesame Street sketch, Ernie and Bert visit a pyramid, where they find statues that resemble them. While Bert explores a tunnel, Ernie looks at the statues, and the one who resembles Ernie taps at him, talks to him, and sings and dances with him… But whenever Bert comes out, the statue stands still and stays quiet. Bert believes that Ernie is just imagining these things because of how scared Ernie is. But when Bert decides they should go home and Ernie goes off-camera, Bert hears the statue say “Good bye!” and runs off screaming.

Now, in this case, it seems hard to tell if the statue’s movements were real or imaginary. Ernie only sees it move when Bert’s in a different room, and when Bert sees it move at the end, Ernie is off-camera, and we don’t know if Ernie saw or heard it talk to Bert. The fact that Ernie saw it move could have finally gotten to Bert and caused Bert to imagine it being alive. But we’ll never know.

5. The Phantom of the Muppet Show

In The Muppet Show episode with guest star Twiggy, various characters see a phantom. Kermit doesn’t believe them, and neither does Hilda, at first. But eventually Kermit does meet the phantom, Uncle Deadly, and after being scared, Kermit learns that George the Janitor had found a phantom costume and had been trying to scare them… Until it turns out that George’s phantom costume had been different from what Kermit had just met.

Anyway, that’s my article. This article just goes to show that if a Muppet character tells you something, you should believe it.

The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier

1 comment:

  1. I don't believe the Muppet Mindset exists. And nothing you say will convince me unless I see it myself!...Hmm...