Over the course of his long career in television, Jim Henson suggested that success could be found through hard work, prayer, a positive attitude and willingness to laugh at one’s self.
“When you trick people into laughing at themselves, that’s wit,” Henson once said. “If you don’t laugh at yourself, everything becomes heavy.”
America certainly lives in “heavy” times, and has seemingly lost its ability to laugh at anything. And that includes one of Henson’s most enduring creations: the Muppets.
In keeping with the woke moment of now, Disney nearly added the Muppets to the cancel culture.
The studio recently decided to stream Henson’s Muppets but with a disclaimer before each episode.
“This program includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures. These stereotypes were wrong then and are wrong now,” the disclaimer states.
“Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it, and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together. Disney is committed to creating stories with inspirational and aspirational themes that reflect the rich diversity of the human experience around the globe.”
Translation: Our liberal instincts tell us to cancel the Muppets, but we secretly believe we can fleece more than a few bucks from nostalgic Boomers who want to relive the Muppets and perhaps share them with their grandchildren.
The problem with Disney’s decision to nearly cancel the Muppets is plain from its statement.
Cancel culture relies on judging the past by contemporary standards – “were wrong then and are wrong now” – suggesting society and culture are static and not ever-evolving. And related to that, we’re supposed to suspend disbelief and believe that those privileged few who lecture us today about how “wrong” Henson was would be so morally superior had they run things in 1955, when he first created the Muppets.
Meanwhile, Disney’s explanation that the Muppets’ release is a teachable moment rings hollow when the company does not explain what we are supposed to learn about the Muppets being “wrong” that most of us wouldn’t already know from changes in society since their origin.
Instead, what we get are a mish-mash of muddled thought and arbitrary standards.
For example, since they are white, a New York Times reporter can get fired or a country music singer can lose a recording deal for using the N-word in the same way they’ve heard it repeated in rap songs and black-oriented movies.
Henson also once said, “When I was young, my ambition was to be one of the people who made a difference in this world. My hope is to leave the world a little better for having been there.”
Many would argue that, even if wrong, Henson did that by entertaining generations of children not only with the Muppets but also “Sesame Street.”