‘Even the sunniest days can have a few clouds in them. And that night sort of changed everything…
I found them….
The Muppets. I guess you could say I was their biggest fan. And they made all the difference because from then on even on the worst days, I knew, that as the years passed, as long as there was singing frogs and joking bears, Swedish chefs and boomerang fish, the world can’t be such a bad place after all. And as long as there are Muppets, for me, there is still hope.’- Walter (The Muppets, 2011)
But tonight, going back to where it all started for me, I just feel…numb. I’ve been avoiding watching The Muppets (2011) ever since July 10th because I knew it was going to be the end game, the moment I finally and truly accept that Kermit…isn’t going to be the frog I fell in love with. Not anymore.
I could play to both sides of the argument and try to be all hopeful about Matt’s Kermit, but not tonight. This is my moment of mourning and my time to be simply stuck in the moment.
When I watched TM2011 for the first time in late 2012, out of boredom because nothing else in the DVD rental place had looked particularly exciting, I wasn’t expecting anything special. The Muppets hadn’t meant much to me beforehand, so I was going in completely blind. The first 17 minutes or so were…okay. The opening number appealed to my love for musicals and Walter seemed to be a pretty cool character, a typical fish-out-of-water protagonist, but there’s nothing wrong with that. I definitely wasn’t leaning towards walking away from the film at any point.
But then it happened.
One of the most defining moments of my short 20 years on this earth.
I finally came face-to-face with the idol I had been missing….and the hero beneath him.
Ironic, isn’t it, that my gateway moment into the Muppet fandom was Kermit being swallowed by a heavenly light while an unearthly choir rang in my ears? Kermit did appear in the film’s opening, but he was in-and-out before I could blink. This time however, he had my full attention. I went from a vaguely entertained viewer to sitting bolt-upright on my bed, eyes wide open as I tried to soak in this new entity that I would come to hold so dear.
Also ironic was Kermit’s question, “Are you okay? That was quite a tumble.”
Oh, Frog of My Heart, you have no idea.
All it took was the conversation in the living room and Pictures in My Head for me to understand just how deep this amphibian heap of green fleece could be. He could feel happiness just as easily as he could experience pain. There were actual memories stirring in his mind, formed from the love and loyalty he held for his old friends. With that realisation, I was hooked. Kermit had grasped firmly onto my heartstrings and hasn’t let go since.
Walter may have been the main protagonist, but for me, this film will always be Kermit’s story. This was his story of soul-searching, rekindling old friendships and once again reuniting his family for the right reasons. For the Muppets to return to doing what they do best; singing and dancing and making people happy. And, even if that couldn’t be achieved, at least they tried and tried it together.
Of course, a heap of credit goes to Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller. Obviously they were the ones to orchestrate the story with all of its emotional highs and lows and I’m happy to give credit where it’s due. However, it was Steve Whitmire that ultimately lead me to connecting with Kermit on a personal level. How could it not be the man who knows Kermit from inside-out? The one who carries Kermit’s soul within his own where ever he goes?
There are hundreds of talented actors and performers out there who can portray characters similar to Kermit, characters who have a kind heart, a strong loyalty to their friends and a passion they can’t deny themselves of. However, I have yet to witness one that can pull it off with the same genuine integrity that Steve can. Aside from Jim Henson, of course.
The best example I can think of is Kermit’s speech at the very end of the film. From what I’ve heard, Steve pulled it off in one take. If true, it just proves my point that his performance skills are crazily impressive.
It’s an awkward adjective to throw out there, but Kermit first struck me as being…honest. Honesty in his voice, honest in admitting when he has doubts, honest when he tries to comfort and encourage his friends and honest in his confusion about his feelings for Miss Piggy. Kermit has always been most honest with himself when it comes to his ambitions and aspirations, something he inspired me to do for myself.
To finally integrate the title of this post, because of Kermit, I gained a much stronger appreciation for myself and what I want to achieve in life. He taught me that it’s not about what the world has to offer me, but what I have to offer the world that counts the most. I want to do what he does, entertain people through film and song, whatever it takes to bring wonder into the life of someone else. A type of creativity I never knew could impact me in such a big way.
Because of Kermit, I’ve chosen to view family as an ever-growing and changing aspect of my life. Kermit’s family is so much more than his thousands of amphibian kin, it’s also the crazy cast of kooks he’s adopted along the way. Alongside my blood relatives, the weirdos that I love will come and go, leaving me with great memories and the chance to create new ones.
Because of Kermit, I joined a fandom where I’m not only open to the rest of the world, but appreciative of the differences between me and my fellow fans, Hopefully, they’re also appreciative of mine. I’ve learned to be tolerant and openly communicative, two concepts my thick skull may never have been able to grasp otherwise. Most importantly, it’s the one place I feel I can be my Muppety self without fear of judgement, sharing my passion with people I’ve come to hold dear to my heart.
Because of Kermit, I know who I am. But will Kermit continue to know who he is? To be losing this iteration of him, for Steve to no longer be providing his soul and acting as his memory bank, scares me to no end. You know, I used to scoff at what I call ‘Henson Purists’: the Muppet fans who could never accept Steve as Kermit simply because he wasn’t Jim. I can’t believe I’m writing this, but I’m beginning to know how they feel.
As I write this, I can hear a very familiar voice in the back of my head crying out, “But there shouldn’t be a distinction! There is no ‘Jim’s Kermit’ and ‘Steve’s Kermit’, there’s just Kermit and all he entails!’
Well, apologies to the Whitmire in my head, but I’m just not ready to integrate Kermit 3.0 into the bigger picture just yet. Steve and Kermit have come to mean so much to me in such a short amount of time. To me, they are the ultimate duo, the perfect combination of Jim Henson creation and student coming together as one. I have to accept that I will never see that magic, as it is pure magic, ever again. For now, that is enough.
For the umpteenth time, though it never loses it’s significance upon repetition, thank you so much to Steve Whitmire for everything I have mentioned in this post and more. Through Kermit (and others), you’ve led me to happiness, inspiration and most importantly, friends I never would have found otherwise.
My gratitude is immeasurable and it will remain that way for a long time to come.