Disney Muppets v Jim Henson Muppets – The great Gen X Civil War?

A good, wise friend posted this link on his Facebook:

http://www.salon.com/2014/04/06/millennials_just_dont_get_it_how_the_muppets_created_generation_x/ 

I struggle to express  my true feelings on the new Muppet phenomenon.  Here’s my best effort.

As a tail-end member of Gen X, I love and appreciate this article. The author is spot on about Xers and the impact of Jim Henson’s work. The magic of his Muppets, Fraggle Rock and Sesame Street was the sheer joy they brought. It all happened to be wrapped in themes of social justice and learning. And we, somewhat unknowingly, loved that part of it too.

30 years later, nostalgia hits hard and the sight of imposter Muppets seems an abomination (I think that’s a more accurate use of the Biblical term than we generally here today).  But here’s the thing. Unwittingly, I loved the first Disney Muppets movie. I sang, I laughed, I was moved. I’ve shared many warm moments of joy with my daughters laughing at Kermit’s mishaps. I bought the soundtrack. I also felt somewhat shameful for my affection for these traitors (thanks, Piatt).

I think the issue is less about the Muppets and more about the pressures of parenting in the 21st century.  As newbie parents we fought hard against video entertainment of any kind. We held the line for nearly 2 years before caving in (airport travel with a toddler will break anyone). And when we broke, we went for cool, hipster educational, music-oriented stuff, like They Might Be Giants albums/videos (Here Come the ABCs, etc.). Slowly, that line started to erode and we ended up occasionally permitting a Blue’s Clues (OMG, I still can’t believe that guy killed himself. It makes the show so creepy to watch.) and, ugh, Dora. Now, Dora is, simply put, awful. Just terrible. To borrow from my friend’s 6 year old son, “why does she stand there and repeat everything a hundred times? Just get on with it DORA!” He’s right. She totally sucks. We tolerated it for about a year because we thought it would be good to learn some Spanish language skills and culture. But we also grew weary. Weary of trying to pick the right foods and toys and clothing and blah blah blah. And then we had a new baby and we held on to only the truest of parenting principles we could maintain. I just breastfed like crazy, we tried to play good music around the bambinos and we read, read, read. And we hoped for the best. So far, so good. I stumbled upon my 4-year-old playing school with a herd of stuffed animals and humming a relatively obscure Muse song (Explorers).  Positive reinforcement that fills my meter.

And that brings me back to the Muppets. Whatever the new Disney Muppets lack in Henson magic, they nearly made up for in sheer entertainment value. The first one was hilarious. Plus we got to feel a little nostalgic with our kids and the Disney Muppets became a gateway drug to introduce them to the real McCoy. 7 years into this parenting gig and that’s good enough for me. But mainly, we all got to sit on our asses and watch a movie that was funny and entertaining. 5 or 35, we all need that sometimes. Oh, but the new Disney Muppets movie is a big, fat turd. TURD.

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