On vinyl since before I was born, my family had the John Denver and the Muppets record. When we upgraded to the 90s we bought it again on CD. It’s been an important part of the season throughout my life – as has the Muppet franchise as a whole.
Sesame Street is virtually a universal experience for North American children, so of course it started there. I grew up when Fraggle Rock was first aired. My parents were fans of the initial Muppet Show series in the 1970s and exposed us to the show, which helped give context for the characters in the few movies that came out in the 1980s for us. It was a major part of my upbringing, like Kids in the Hall but age-appropriate.
When Jim Henson died I was 7 years old. It was my first crushing experience with the concept of mortality, the first one that really sunk in. But as time went on – as Sesame Street continued and more movies were made – it helped my developing mind build the concept of immortality as well. Creative works remain posthumously to the creator, and legacies of the exceptionally affecting entertainers collectively live on. Even being commercialized and owned by Disney hasn’t ruined the value it played in my life.
This Christmas my sister drew my name from a hat for Secret Santa. She bought me the recently published biography of Jim Henson. It made me cry to open the gift, and will doubtless do so even more as I read it. It was not just the entertainment value of the shows, music, and movies that meant a lot, but the ideologies it portrayed. The values of those creatively responsible for entertainment are entrenched in the final product. Getting to know the life story of a remarkable influence will expose just how much of my grasp of the world, of consciousness, of purpose, and of morality aligns with what entertained my growing mind.
Secret Santa exchanges can leave you with challenges on what to buy, but I’m pretty sure my sister knew what to get me right off the top.