Jim Henson Puts You To Shame

Yesterday, May 16th, was the 21st anniversary of Jim Henson’s passing.

And it went by with nary a whisper in the trades, hardly a mention in the entertainment news world, and barely a blip (or a bloop) in the burgeoning social media.  This, to me, is all wrong.

We often hear about what’s ‘relevant’ when we talk about what should be news.  And that’s a load of pig slop.  It is said, the news is what the news is; that the people decide on what’s important or newsworthy or, in current terms, social media determines what is relevant.

That’s a bigger load of pig slop.

In science, there’s a distinction between correlation and causality.  Simply put, Correlation is the existence of two factors which occur together but do not specifically cause each other and Causality is the specific relationship between one factor which directly creates the other.

Not marking the death of Jim Henson in the entertainment media is a causal occurrence.  The people have little say in what is reported upon in that world.  The news outlets are the ones who determine that.  They may react to or anticipate what the masses want but, at the end of the day, it’s the editors who approve or deny stories before they go to press.  Furthermore, they’re the ones who decide to run pieces which aren’t already on the tips of everyone’s tongues.  They decide what’s relevant for themselves.

So, to them, in regards to Jim’s legacy, I say: Shame.

Henson’s Legacy Will Outlive You

Here’s the thing.  I don’t even need to recap the career of Jim Henson or provide a link to who he is.  He’s Jim Henson.  Everyone in the Western World knows one of his characters.  Everyone.  His legacy is intact (and would have been with or without the behemoth that is the Disney Corp.).  If you are too busy — and I’m talking to you, Entertainment editor-types — with what my countrymen call ‘scandal sheet’ reporting and trumpeting the latest rehash/reboot/remake monstrosities of Hollywood, to make a mere mention or run a small article on Jim Henson then I decry you as failing in your duties.

Entertainment is, ultimately, about imagination.  Yes, it’s a trillion dollar industry, now, and largely run by faceless corporations who operate figurehead companies.  Yes, it is driven by feckless ‘reality’ properties, cacophonous franchises, popcorn pseudo-music, and self-engorged tentpoles but it’s still about imagination.  And while we focus on gritty realism for adult dramatic actioners, or boundary-pushing eroticism, or highly-rendered CGI, or largely-flaccid 3D, the industry seems more and more to forget that suspension of disbelief relies upon the crafter’s ability to stir the imagination of the viewer.  That’s all: just stir the imagination enough to create an enjoyable experience and allow the viewer to forget whatever troubles their lives may have.

And that’s something Jim Henson could do by using little more than what you can easily find in a craft store.  No million dollar budget, no years of rendering time, no high-performance cameras, no sweeping marketing campaign, no bloated salaries, no car chases, no imploding celebrities, and no super-hip profanity.  He built his empire on a sock and two buttons.  His ‘properties’ now help sustain that imagination in your audience while they’re still at daycare and thus part of what preserves your industry, you entertainment moguls and news runners.

And for the duration of his career he not only created the most enduring children’s show in history (essentially giving life to ‘edu-tainment’), not only created characters who are recognized worldwide more readily than most heads-of-state, not only used his company as a training ground for hundreds of entertainers, and not only stirred the imagination of millions (if not billions) of kids with a talking frog and pig, he did it without once pandering to the trend-du-jour or the corporate suits or ever losing sight of his most generous quality: to excite, educate, entertain, and encourage people to believe not just in his creations but also to believe in themselves.

Jim Henson was a man who gave life and invested character into inanimate objects in order to teach people the value of kindness, understanding, compassion, and all the better angels of our nature.  He was addressing things like bullying before they became trending topics.  He was doing all of this before we even had the term ‘trending’.

Jim Henson Was Magic

Army Archerd, another late great, and those of his quality are sorely missed in the Hollywood press.  Their absence in this time of entertainment scoopstering is painfully apparent.  So while you worry about whether a starlet has shown her hoo-ha, or if a ‘recording artist’ is going to jail, or how long an Oscar-winner will dry out in rehab, or how the money trail will change in the new media, or when the reboot of the freakin’ Bible will bow, pay your respects to those who helped turn the craft of entertainment into an industry.  Don’t forget the giants who came before you.

Especially those giants who walked softly and quietly used their enormous strength to build up rather than break apart the world around them.

Jim Henson died twenty-one years ago yesterday and when you neglected to mark his passing in your publications, a little more of your credibility, your humanity, and your relevance died too.  And if my words posted in this blog which has a microscopic audience manages to reach you and stir your ire, entertainment newsfolk, then so be it.  Brand me a blogly pundit and bar me from ever rubbing elbows with you.  Cast me out.  I’ll leave you to counting your mounds of cash and deciding upon the narrative of the next news cycle.  I’ll be fine over here.

It’ll just be the lovers, the dreamers, and me.

Author’s Note: I know it’s a rambling post which careens from targeting the entertainment media to targeting the entertainment industry itself and back again but, y’know, I felt rant-y today. Kudos to Lisa Brenner of LAist, who didn’t forget. And special thanks to Fearless Fred, a radio host here on Toronto’s Edge 102.1, whose Tweet and subsequent blog post was the first thing I’d read on the topic.


About Angelo Barovier

I was born. I'll be around for a while. Then I won't.


3 thoughts on “Jim Henson Puts You To Shame

  1. For Henson, the folks at SlashFilm put up the Henson doc in full sequence for ease of clicking.

    Posted by Angelo Barovier | May 17, 2011, 2:48 pm
  2. While I agree completely on everything you said about Henson… 21 isn’t a number that tends to get news. 20, 25, 30…

    Posted by Shayde | May 18, 2011, 4:55 pm
    • I know but I’m of a mind what says they should do it every year until people forget who Kermit the Frog is. What’s worse, though, is the Henson family of companies did squat themselves. Issue a gorram Tweet, for the love of felt! Who’s running their PR? Donald Rumsfeld?

      It stokes the Animal in me.

      Posted by Angelo Barovier | May 18, 2011, 5:31 pm

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