What is Jim Henson best known for?
Another warning. This time the streaming channel Disney Plus is providing 18 episodes of the "Muppet Show" with "attention" for the international audience. It is said that there is a warning against "negative representations and / or incorrect treatment of people or cultures". "Those stereotypes were wrong then and are now." Something similar had already been done with Disney classics such as "Dumbo", "Aristocats", "Jungle Book" or "Peter Pan". Now it's the turn of the shy frog, who is adored by an impulsive pig. Or is it the other way around?
For example, there is a warning about an episode of the 1980 show in which guest star Johnny Cash sings in a stuffy barn in front of a Confederate flag, a symbol of the far right. It can be assumed that the warning refers to this scene - it is not explained in more detail. In another episode, also provided with a hint, the British comedian Peter Sellers sings in front of a caravan dressed as "Gypsy".
For those who did not grow up with the "Muppet Show": Its 120 episodes were filmed between 1976 and 1981 and were seen in more than 100 countries. It was probably the world's most successful television show of its time. The Walt Disney Company has held the rights to the programs since 2004, in which human guests, together with a large number of hand puppets, try to bring order to the chaos of a variety theater - in the figurative sense: life - for almost half an hour. Despite all opposition, a greedy theater director for example, a moral apostle appearing as an eagle, or the persistently roaring representatives of the older generation (Statler and Waldorf) from a theater box. The Guardian once described the show, which was originally intended for adults, as follows: "Ironic, but not cynical. Sharp, but not cruel. Sweet, but not cheesy. Anarchic, but not chaotic."
Elton John and Stevie Wonder had the most fun of their lives
The crème de la crème of international showbiz stood in line to be part of Jim Henson's Muppet team for an episode. Elton John and Stevie Wonder called working with the puppeteers "the greatest fun" of their lives.
Henson, voice and mover not only of Kermit, had an excellent reputation in many families. He had previously done pioneering work with "Sesame Street". There it was about the playful conveyance and deepening of pre-school knowledge. The mass spread of television in all classes of the population offered new opportunities. Second, "Sesame Street", like the "Muppet Show" later, celebrated human diversity. No contradiction when the Russian ballet dancer Rudolf Nurejew danced here with a very fat stuffed pig or the black jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie started a jam session in an Indian palace. Accept the contradictions, accept them and celebrate life together, that was Henson's message. For those who grew up with his show, his early death at the age of 53 in 1990 came as a shock.
If you look at some of the episodes complained about again, you seem perplexed. In the episode with Steve Martin, is it the opening scene in which the US comedian has an arrow in his head that could be misinterpreted? Is it the rats dancing a French can-can? Or the (blue-skinned) Mexican who conducts singing vegetables?
It is even more difficult to recognize something dangerous in the episode with the English jazz singer Cleo Laine. Laine's number "It don't mean a thing" and her appearance with the wonderfully poetic puppeteer Bruce Schwartz are among the best the show has ever had to offer. Could it be the scene in which Fozzie Bear with a wig on his head makes a fool of Miss Piggy in a new episode of "Pigs in Space"? Is that sexist? Does the accent of the Danish (in the English original: Swedish) chef bother you?
Perhaps the warning notices are only intended to be a safeguard in the event of discrimination lawsuits. There is one thing you don't do justice to: the man who, in his endless joy of playing, was always interested in a just, peaceful and happy coexistence - Jim Henson. One could almost say: It's good that he doesn't have to experience that anymore.
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