Saturday, December 28, 2013

Paradise lost

Every year when I go to visit my parents during the Christmas season we end up watching The Muppets Family Christmas.  It has been an interesting saga over the years because my father tried to tape it from TV a long time ago and the attempt ended with some bumps and oopses - several key scenes are missing due to trying to cut out the commercials.  You hear that younguns?  Back in my day we used VCRs to tape from TV, and we liked it!  Since then several other versions have been purchased and we still watch the show even though the presentation is different in each version.  It is a performance laden with memories and emotions from a time long past.

This year I watched it with different eyes and was saddened.  I speak about the scene where Burt and Ernie are delivering Twas The Night Before Christmas dressed up as Mama and Papa.  Burt lost the toss so he had to dress up as Mama and was completely humiliated by the experience - not only was he desperate to avoid making an appearance but the audience laughed at him uproariously when he did come out.  It twists inside me that even though Sesame Street is so often progressive they felt it was obvious that a man wearing women's clothing was a despicable creature that everyone would laugh at.  After all, who would want to be like a woman?  Surely no one with a choice would tolerate such a thing.

I cannot paint the show with a blackened brush without getting it all over myself of course.  I laughed at Burt year after year as he desperately tried to avoid the shame of being in clothes designed for a woman; I am as guilty as anyone.  It is yet another event in the saga of my life where I wake up and realize what terrible things I have done, what wrongheaded beliefs I have held, what foolishness I have committed.  Next time I watch Muppets Family Christmas I will take that particular scene out, if only in my head.  I will substitute a scene where Burt strides confidently onto the stage and stares down the audience with a steely gaze instead, certain that his friends and colleagues would never shame him for how he dresses, gender conforming or not.


  1. I'm all for personal delusions on watching things (I entertain quite a few... most recently that John Hurt's Doctor didn't actually regenerate at the end of Day of the Doctor and that Eccelston plays the same Doctor, thus the numbering system for Doctor's isn't overly disturbed. Although, I'm also willing to use grue numbers as an alternative.)

    But, this delusion you're proposing... well, that's just not Bert. Bert is always self conscious and hates the outfits people make him wear in pageants. At best he puts up with it with little complaint and a defeatist aire... but certainly not staring people down or making steely gazes, because Bert isn't that self assured. There is a rare instance when after putting up with a cheap cupid outfit of cardboard wings and pajamas, he finally stands his ground on wearing something else, after gaining some confidence after people appreciating his replacement for the song on "love" they wanted him to sing.

    A better delusion would probably be to ignore the response of the others... and imagine that the others are laughing with him or appreciatively. I'm told that's the secret to watching Big Bang Theory, rather than as the mocking Geekspoilation version of Two and a Half Men it appears to be to me.

  2. You are correct about Burt. He just wouldn't use a steely gaze... but I also want him to be better, strongly, more. It isn't in character but it is something I want.