Monday, December 8, 2008

Assignment 1-3

Journal Article Analysis

The article that I will be analyzing for this assignment is “The Performance of Nonconformity on The Muppet Show—or, How Kermit Made Me Queer”. This article was written by Jordon Schildcrout. The article discusses the television show The Muppet Show and several aspects of the show. This article is intended for a general audience. The language is straight forward and easy to understand. The style of the article is logical. The article is laid out in an organized manner and the main idea is present from the very beginning.

Jim Henson is the creator of The Muppet Show. He also helped to create Sesame Street. There is a difference on a fundamental level between the two shows. Sesame Street was designed to show young children an educational program while still showing an “idealized vision of an urban multicultural neighborhood” (Schildcrout, 2008, pg. 823). The Muppet Show did not have a set goal or design, except to entertain…or did it? Even though it didn’t have a pronounced goal does not mean that it did not have an underling theme. The theme can best be described as being “progressive” (Schildcrout, 2008, pg. 824).

One reason why The Muppet Show had the freedom to be so creative from the beginning is that the show was first shot as an independent production (Schildcrout, 2008, pg. 825). It was actually picked up by a British company after all the major American stations turned the idea down. After the show was produced, the American stations realized their mistake and got on board with the show. With no one really looking over his shoulder, Henson was able to let his creative juices flow.

The entire show is filmed in The Muppet Theatre. This is a made up place where the Muppets interact. Each week, the Muppets are visited by a special guest. The special guest is the only human on the show each week (Schildcrout, 2008, pg. 825).

There are several interesting facets about the Muppets on The Muppet Show. The Muppets are usually comical or funny by nature, so the Muppets that are serious are usually the odd ones out. Also, according to Schildcrout, “The Muppet Theatre is the home of misfits and oddballs, zany characters who consistently flout convention” (2008, pg. 826). Part of the set-up of the Muppets is that they don’t conform to societal norms. This is passed on to children as they watch this show. It is not to make the children want to be nonconformists but to show them that it is all right if they don’t conform. This explains the title of the article, at least to a certain point. The Muppets also make it a point to show their appreciation for each other as performers at The Muppet Theatre, highlighting that they are not performing for just for money (Schildcrout, 2008, pg. 826). This is another important point that has been set up by Henson to help teach children it is not all about the money.

Henson also makes a point to create different problems that the Muppets must deal with on a regular basis. This is a great lesson for the audience of children watching the show. It helps them realize that problems will arise but you will get through the tough times. Henson has also made a point to have some of the problems be big ones and other problems much smaller. This helps create a realistic picture for children (Schildcrout, 2008, pg. 826).

The Muppets on The Muppet Show are not forced to stay within the cultural norms that other shows are forced to adhere to. This is also where the title to the article comes into play. The show has blurred the lines in several areas, including race, gender, and sexuality. For example, Miss Piggy is portrayed as a female in the show but there are a few interesting facts about the character. She almost seems to be dressing in drag by the crazy outfits that she wears. In the old theatre, men used to perform all of the roles in a play, including female roles. When Miss Piggy gets upset, her voice is very deep. All of the puppeteers that were Miss Piggy were men. Another example of blurring the line is Gonzo and his sexuality. He is portrayed as a male but at one point he chooses to dance with Kermit and at another point to be held by a male guest as they sing a song. When he danced with Kermit, Kermit seemed uncomfortable. Gonzo did not seem uncomfortable. A final example related to the issue of race is the color of the Muppets. Due to very different and bright colors, the race of all of the Muppets is not always disclosed (Schildcrout, 2008, pg. 827-830).

Another interesting fact about the main Muppets on The Muppet Show is that many of them are males. In fact, “among the nearly thirty Muppets who appear regularly on the show, only two of them are female” (Schildcrout, 2008, pg. 829). These two females would be Miss Piggy and Janice, who sings in the band.

How is it that the Muppets are able to function under the nonconformity of cultural norms? One of the ways that the Muppets are able to pull this off is due to their child-like innocence (Schildcrout, 2008, pg. 832). The Muppet Show has done a great job teaching children a valuable lesson. The show is entertaining to say the least. The show has also allowed children to question cultural norms in a fun and non-confronting way. I would have to assume that most children that watched the show did not become queer. On the other hand, it was a great example of the tolerance we should have towards others, whether they are like us or unlike us. We need the message of this program more and more in the world that we live in and this show was a great start.

Schildcrout, J. (2008). The performance of nonconformity on the Muppet show—or, how Kermit made me queer. Journal of Popular Culture, 41(5), 823-835. Retrieved November 13, 2008, from Academic Source Complete database.

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