I distinctly remember watching the old Muppet Show growing up and thinking that the vast majority of these muppets characters were completely insane.
For those of you who may not remember the show, it consisted mostly of slapstick chaos and really bad jokes. Kermit the frog would come out and try to organize a variety show of sorts and invariably things would quickly fall apart. Of course I had no idea at the time how much this would later become an overarching metaphor for my life, but I do remember wondering — Why does he do it? Why does this poor little frog continue to try to put this show together week after week when he has to know that things are going to fall apart?
Now even as a seven-year old watching this comedic chaos week after week, I found myself becoming far more annoyed than amused. I just didn’t understand why all of these other muppets characters couldn’t get their act together and do what they were supposed to do. And although my knowledge of labor negotiations were rudimentary at best, I often wondered why Kermit didn’t just fire the entire lot of them and find some more agreeable replacement muppets who would do as they were told.
It wasn’t until years later when I began watching reruns of the show with my own kids that I realized how incredibly boring the show would have been if everyone had gotten along and played by the rules. If reality television has taught us anything, it’s that conflict makes compelling programming. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about the misguided cast of Jersey Shore or a bunch of miscreant muppets, in the end, it’s the chaos and drama that create “must-see” TV.
Any one of these muppets characters would have failed miserably on their own. I mean think about it for a moment. . .
First of all you have Kermit the frog, who is very nice, but is also a bit of a doormat for all of the other characters. While we may initially be attracted to him for his kind and generous nature, we are also a little appalled that he can’t get his little ping-pong ball eyes to see the grim reality of the situation around him.
You have the femme fatale Ms. Piggy who is constantly demanding the spotlight like some kind of porkchop diva who is never satisfied.
You have the always-on Fozie Bear who is endless array of bad jokes reminds you of that annoying uncle who you had to eventually ban from your family get togethers.
You have the “Animal” character who not only is unable to speak intelligibly, but has apparently just escaped from the local mental asylum as well.
You have Gonzo the lovable blue wackadoo who is always coming up with some crazy new idea and then finding a way to make a mess of things time and time again.
Not to mention the dozens of other muppets characters who all seem to possess their own unique set of social and psychological issues.
My point is that individually, the personality of every one of these muppets characters is severely flawed and quite irritating, but together they combine all of the traits we will need in order to succeed as creative artists online. They are essentially little furry Jungian archetypes that are a part of each one of us.
Perhaps each of them has their own karmic lesson to teach us.
From Kermit the frog we can learn the need to be a connector and look for ways to bring our fellow artists together. We might also learn the importance of humbleness and understanding that when we are online, we are a part of something much larger than ourselves.
From Fozie Bear, we can learn the importance of keeping a sense of humor and not taking our work or our life too seriously. We might also learn not to judge ourselves or our self-worth by the opinions of others.
From Ms. Piggy we can learn the value of publicity and self-promotion. If an artist paints something beautiful in a forest but there’s no one around to see it, then what in the hell is she doing painting in a forest by herself anyway?! That just doesn’t seem very safe. . . Anyway, my point is that you can be an extraordinary artist, but if no one knows who you are, than you’re probably not going to sell much of your work. You need to get out there and talk about yourself and your creative work. Now having said that, a little self-promotion goes along way.
From Animal we can learn the value of having a true passion for what you do. We learn that sometimes a little bit of “crazy” is exactly what we need. We also learn that more often than not, it takes a lot of determination and sheer persistence to get to where you want to be.
From Gonzo we can learn the value of taking chances and risking failure with our art. We begin to understand that most of what we try may not work out the way we initially expected. We need to stop worrying about the results and begin to focus more on the creative process itself.
And finally from Lady Gaga and others, we learn that Muppets do not make good wardrobe choices after all. . .
In order to succeed online as a creative artist, you’re going to have to find a way to combine the passion and determination of Animal with Gonzo’s willingness to take risks and think outside the box. You’ll need to find a balance between Kermit’s ability to connect and lift others up, with Ms. Piggy’s ability to attract attention to herself and get her message out to the world. You will also need to maintain your Fozie bear sense of humor along the way and not take yourself or your work too seriously.
In other words, it’s not about doing one particular thing. It’s not about having to get on Twitter, setup your Facebook fan page, update your Flickr account, or start one more @#$%! website. It’s about being able to find a balance.
People who only show one side of their personality eventually become comic caricatures of themselves because they are unable or unwilling to open up and show their friends, fans, and potential future customers who they really are as both a person and as an artist.
In the end you don’t have to be a selfless doormat. You don’t have to be the life of the party. You don’t have to constantly be in the spotlight. And you don’t always have to take chances that scare the crap out of you . . .
But sometimes you will.
Who is your favorite Muppets character?
Which Muppets character/trait do you generally identify with the most?
Which one of these character traits do you think that you may still need to work on?
Writer, teacher, and head custodian of the Skinny Artist community. His book "Getting Creative: Developing Creative Habits that Work" is all about finding the time (and energy) to live a more creative life.