Dear all of my Muppet friends from Muppet Central, The Muppet Mindset, ToughPigs, Facebook, Twitter and all over the world,
Would you agree when I say that describing this past month as a ‘complete and utter nightmare’ is a vast understatement?
I knew you would.
I’m not writing this to call any of you out or to start a completely new conversation. I think we can all agree that it isn’t necessary. I’d just like the opportunity to provide my own thoughts and experiences from the past few weeks. All I could ever ask of you is to please put aside a few minutes of your time so that I may tell my story.
Being fickle over my position as a Muppet fan has caused me more trouble than I care to admit over the past few weeks. Actually, perhaps I should be more specific: being a Steve Whitmire fan has pretty much taken over my life since the announcement that he had “left” the Muppets was released. Of course, we all saw what a tragic crap-fest that wound up escalating into. For the sake of what is left of my sanity, I will decline to go into depth about anything Steve, Disney or the Henson’s have said about each other over the past two weeks. You all already know about that and quite frankly, it has been discussed to death.
Something I do want to touch upon, however, is where I feel I must go from here. Over-discussed or not, the Muppets just lost one of their most prominent performers, leaving a gaping hole where Steve once stood. Not to mention that Steve is my all-time favourite performer, whether in the Muppets, Fraggle Rock or even The Dark Crystal. Steve’s characters appealed to me due to the wonderful and enduring personalities he gave to them. He didn’t just give a great performance, he gave an astounding sense of life to whatever puppet was placed in front of him. No matter what was said or done to cause his dismissal, losing Steve as a Muppet Performer is a huge loss to me as a fan and I can’t see myself getting so easily over it any time soon.
I never thought I would have to separate being a Whitmire fan from being a Muppet fan. Allow me to elaborate what I mean by that. Of course I’ll remain a dedicated Muppet enthusiast, but not nearly in the same way as before. For the past five years, I’ve been a Muppet fan because I was a Whitmire fan, not the other way around. I’ve always cared about Steve and the other performers more than the characters themselves. As far as I’m concerned, the Muppets are one of the benefits provided by this exclusive group of amazing talents.
So where does the majority of my loyalties lie in such a confusing time? Do I stick with the crazy cast of characters who for better or for worse completely turned my world on it’s head? Or the man who brought me into this crazy fandom in the first place who I greatly respect and wish to learn a lot more from? Well, my answer finally fell into place thanks to a quote from Steve’s latest post on Muppet Pundit:
“In the big picture, it is not unsupportive of any individual or entity to choose on the side of what is best for the Muppets, themselves, to insure that they have their best chance to go on as a solid, viable ensemble made up of fully intact individuals.”
To sum up what Steve is saying in my own words: if we truly want what is best for the Muppets as time goes onward, if we expect them to remain true to themselves rather than gradually fade to shadows, it is extremely important to look out for the best interests for the characters. This is so much more than just one lone puppeteer or a dedicated fandom, it’s the future of the characters we love that’s more important than any of our individual wants and needs. Say what you want about Steve’s blog; whether you find him to be genuine or ‘self-serving’, he has a fair point.
Steve is not ready to drop the subject….and neither am I. Here is where being a Whitmire and Muppet fan begins to fuse back together. So long as Steve continues to fight for the Muppet’s integrity, they are still one and the same. I’ll be right here fighting alongside him and for them, even if Steve one day decides he’s had enough, although that in itself is doubtful. I also look forward to seeing what he’ll do as far as continuing on his career in puppetry. A new set of characters? A YouTube channel? Become a full-time monitor-puppetry teacher and lecturer perhaps? Only time will tell.
I’m also intrigued to see how the current Muppet Performers handle things as we go ahead with new projects. A lengthy period of adjustment will surely be needed for both them and us fans. There’s a lot of recasting to do. We already have Matt Vogel sitting on the Green Throne and apparently Peter Linz up in the balcony as Statler, but what about Lips, Beaker, Link, Newsman and Foo Foo? From the Vogel side of things, Robin the Frog faces an uncertain future. Matt is brilliant, but he can’t perform both uncle and nephew. Hopefully a new performer will be able to do Jerry Nelson justice. John Tartaglia, perhaps?
My main concern is for Rizzo the Rat. He was one of the last characters originated during the Muppet Show to still have his original performer. In all honesty, a huge part of me hopes that they’ll decide to retire him. Call me cynical, but I can’t see Rizzo becoming anything else but flanderized and shallow in the care of another puppeteer. He doesn’t have the same well-known depth as Kermit or Miss Piggy to dig into. That’s no slight against Steve in any way. In fact there’s no doubt in my mind that Steve had an entire backstory for Rizzo and why he became the character he is. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time given to Rizzo to flesh that all out and now he faces either a flat and shallow future or a complete redo.
That being said, I highly encourage a puppeteer to prove me wrong. In fact, I dare them to do so!
To collect the remaining mess of Muppet mumbles meandering around my mind, I’ll conclude by reiterating what I have been saying on Facebook, Muppet Central, in private conversations and the comment sections of Muppet Pundit.
I’ll break these down into simple statements:
- Yes, I am still a Steve Whitmire fan; my loyalty remains with Steve.
- I will be outspoken about the integrity of the Muppets and about my devotion to Jim Henson’s vision.
- I will support Matt Vogel as Kermit and give him the period of adjustment he needs, but I am allowed to have a preference of performers.
- I will also support any other recasts, but will reserve the right to preferences.
- I will continue to watch and (hopefully) enjoy up and coming Muppet projects as we move forward, but won’t hesitate to call The Muppets Studio out on any mistakes or bad decision making.
- I have nothing to say on the matter of Brian, Lisa and Cheryl Henson. Their thoughts are their own.
- I will respect the opinions of fellow fans, but I can and will respectfully dispute and discuss differences of said opinions if I feel it is required.
- I will not tolerate any fan who deliberately causes trouble with myself or any other fans for the sake of causing conflict. If I feel the need to defend myself or assist a victim of bullying, I will do so.
After five years of blindly following along and singing praises about Disney’s direction for the Muppets, recent events have opened my eyes and stemmed my ignorance. I’m not the same fan I was before and with Steve now out of the cast of performers, it’s going to take time to properly redefine myself. If there is anything I’m certain of, it’s that Jim Henson never could have imagined things playing out the way they have. That, above anything else, is the most disappointing aspect of all.
But I digress. May the next few months provide us with fresh minds and new hope for the characters we all know and love.
Until next time,
Marni Hill (JimAndFrank, @123Hillsy, etc)