I finally watched the new Jason Segel Muppets movie over the weekend. “But Gabe, that movie came out months ago. It’s simply not topical!” Well what do you want to talk about, DEMI MOORE’S NEW TWITTER HANDLE? No. We’re going to talk about this now because there are things to say about it and if you want to see a Japanese man running around like a monkey you can go to every other blog today, or you can wait because we’ll probably post it later when we get desperate. But, so, the “new” Muppets movie: it’s good! You should see it. THE END. Just kidding. There’s more! So, as you know, I am virulently anti-nostalgia. I think it’s a dangerous wasteland of sapped energy and lazy thinking. Nothing has ever been better than it is right now. Think about today, prepare for tomorrow, eat delicious sandwiches whenever possible, that’s my motto. It’s fine to have fond memories of the past, but to dwell on them, or to regurgitate them constantly and/or use them as deflection shields from dealing with the present is simply no good. The Muppets certainly indulged in that poison nectar. Not only are the muppets themselves a nostalgiac artifact at this point, but the movie is a self-referencing rumination on the franchise’s past glories. It even includes a rendition of “Rainbow Connection” for heaven’s sake. (Not that some us, and it could have been any of us so there’s no use pointing fingers because it’s rude, didn’t find it entirely heartwarming and delightful. BUT STILL.) Nevertheless, the movie was fun and charming and full of good humor and positive energy and all our old friends and everything.
But there’s this other thing I was thinking about when I was watching it: where is OUR generation’s The Muppets. And I don’t mean that in the typical blow off, haha fart noise joke joke poke in the ribs way either. I mean it sincerely: what are we even DOING these days?
The fact that 40 years ago there was a prime time comedy show that appealed to adults as well as children featuring brilliantly constructed puppets in an homage to vaudevillian showbiz and this show aired on a major network and was wildly popular is pretty incredible. That really happened? Yes. The humor was gentle but intelligent, family friendly but not watered down. The puppets were works of art. The show was a treat. So where’s ours?
I’m not saying that we need an actual Muppet Show. We already had that. It’s over! But we do need something that embodies that same sense of joy and magic. That’s what we are missing. Now, before you head down the misguided road of golden hued nostalgia for a bygone era, remember this: television is genuinely enjoying a Golden Age right now. It’s crazy how much good stuff is on that stupid thing. And back when The Muppet Show actually aired, almost everything else on television was complete and utter garbage. How do I know that? Because it’s always true. Even right now, you’ve got a Kardashian for every Justified. A couple million people watch Mad Men and 10 times that number watch reruns of Two Broke Girls. It’s just the law of the TV Jungle. It’s fine! If anyone ever wonders why there is so much garbage on TV or in movie theaters the answer is really simple: because people love that garbage. So stop complaining. It’s not helping.
We live in dark times, and cultural barriers fall away, and that leaves us with Breaking Bad. But it’s not like the 1970s weren’t hell of fucking dark, too. You had recent tragedies fresh in people’s minds (World Wars, Presidential Assassinations) and a minor conflict called the Vietnam War. You had the nuclear cloud of the Cold War hanging over everyone’s heads, skyrocketing gas prices, and the Iranian Hostage Crisis. It was a mess! Just like it’s still a mess and has always been a mess and will always be a mess! (See again the part about how it’s never been better than it is now. Although it has been worse!) But even there amidst all of those troubles and concerns, there was The Muppet Show. Just because things are bleak does not mean we lose our capacity for charm and magic and wonder and amusement. It was inside us the whole time! (LOL GROSSSSS.)
It’s very easy to just say that people should be more creative and imaginative and brilliant, but that doesn’t make it any less true: THEY SHOULD! We’ve got the gritty Dark Knights and the depressive Louies and the anal swords of Game of Thrones pretty well covered. We’re like a rheumatic Statler and Waldorf complaining to an empty theater. I thought it was time to start the music! I thought it was time to light the lights! So let’s!
Oh wait, I’ve got it. Demi Moore should change her Twitter handle to @DEMIMOORE.