Wednesday, May 16, 2012

It's good to know that Jim Henson is still offending people even today

I meant to write about this back when it happened, but I was probably distracted by a passing unicorn so I didn't.  But since this is the 22nd anniversary of the passing of creative genius Jim Henson, it seemed a good time to dig it up and mock it now.

The Hub (formerly Discovery Kids) has got a LOT of good shows on now - Transformers (both new and old), My Little Pony Friendship is Magic (where my bronies at?) and the new Aquabats show.  They also re-run Fraggle Rock, Jim's show for HBO, which was as new and different from the Sesame Street work as were his sketches for Saturday Night Live. He built a whole new world with new characters, and proved there was much more to come from Henson Associates.  It's universally loved and respected, and is still a classic of children's entertainment.

Except for this guy from Texas, that is.

This guy's kid was watching the show, as all kids should, and when Wembley said to the main character, Gobo, "Gee, Gobo, we're sorry,"  He thought they said "Jigaboo".

Which, clearly, they didn't.

But he watched it and re-watched it, and became more and more convinced that that was what they said.  And he was angry enough that he contacted The Hub, and his local TV station, because People Needed To Know About This.

And the TV station looked at the episode, said "No, he said, 'Gee, Gobo'," patted his head, and sent him on his way.

No, of course that's not what happened.  They did an entire piece on the news about the "controversy". They interviewed the guy, got footage of his kid watching the evil, harmful program, and he explained his stance.

"That's what I heard.  That's what I hear."

He's exactly right.  That IS what he heard.  It's just not what was SAID

The Hub pulled a copy of the script, shared it with the station, and it was quite clear.  But again, this guy claims there's racism, and so it MUST be discussed.  Because people LOVE watching news pieces about racism.

The piece says they would play the clip "So you can judge for yourself".  But they then got some local community organizer who also completely agreed that the evil (a word which here means"formerly offensive but now antiquated and almost adorable in its anachronism") word was used.  Cause he knew damn well that if he said "No, he said, "Gee, Gobo'." he wasn't gonna get on television.

Now, seriously, I get it.  Racism is everywhere. But it's not EVerywhere.  It's not nearly as endemic to the culture as it used to be, and we really have made great strides, but it's still around, and there are still people who will happily spout their foolishness.  Heck, look at this article from Mediaite about the issue. The article is perfectly balanced, but the comment thread wants to make you hang your head and weep.

So black folks and other minorities are understandably hyper-sensitive to it, poring over comments, making sure there's nothing couched in between the words.  And sadly, there often is.  And sometimes, there isn't, and a banana is just a banana a cigar is just a cigar. And sometimes people are looking SO hard they simply delude themselves.

The best other example I can think of is the scene with Daffy and Donald Duck in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? They're doing a piano duet that quickly degrades into chaos, and ends with cannons and hilarity.  And as they trade barbs and witticisms, Donald mutters a traditional "rasafrassin" expletive that TO THIS DAY many black people swear contains the nuclear weapon of words not to say to black people.  In the face of evidence (It even made, the script, the subtitles for the movie and all common sense, people still maintain that Donald Duck (a duck) called Daffy Duck (also a duck, and not from Africa) a naughty word.  They refuse to grasp that the whole THEME of the film is about the evils of racism - Toons are treated as second-class citizens, and live in their own (gaily colored) ghetto.

There was a story about a talking greeting card featuring Hoops and Yoyo, the two annoying mascots from Hallmark. (Not to be confused with Holmes and Yoyo) It was a Graduation card, and in it, they compliment the receiver, comparing him to all the stars and heavenly bodies in the sky.  Brighter than a supernova, faster than a comet, etc.  Get it?  Space things.  So then they say that "all you black holes" better watch out, cause this graduate is coming.  Again, astronomic object.  But no, some deaf grandmother hears the card, and is CONVINCED the card starts talking about "Black hoes".  (Again, another comment thread that shames us all, but whadjagonnado...)

The human mind is GREAT at finding patterns.  Your mind fills in the gaps when there are things it can't see.  It's how you can recognize your car from only a corner of it poking out of a parking spot, how you can figure out what happens between the panels of a comic book, or how people said they could still see the World Trade center after 9/11.  Your brain was used to seeing it there, so when you look downtown, your brain doesn't even bother to "see" what's there, it just pulls an image from storage for a second before the real image registers.  And it's why we mis-hear song lyrics.  You can't understand the words to a song, and your brain plugs in words that seem like they would fit phonetically: ""Scuse me while I kiss this guy" and the like. 

So in both of these cases, people don't hear what was said, and since, sadly, they're used to hearing (or at least thinking about) the rude words, their brains plugs them in.  And the more they listen the more they're convinced that's what was said.  And in a lot of cases, if you're TOLD that's what was said, your brain assumes it's so, and YOU become convinced of it.  The guy from Judas Priest proved this during that suicide lawsuit back in the day. He played backwards lyrics from their songs once, then TOLD told the court "Here's what this sounds like" and sure enough, that's what it sounded like when he played it again.  And it was all nonsense statements like "Hey look, ma; my chair is broken", which just pointed out the fact that it was ridiculous.

Again, this is a story that should have just never gone anywhere.  The Hub should have sent the guy a free t-shirt for the confusion, the news should never have covered it.  But it's sos tantalizing they can't resist.  And sadly, The Hub announced that they'd edit the episode, bleeping out the line. 

Which of course makes this guy think he's won.  "Why would they change it unless that's what they said?" he proudly asks.  Because sadly, it's sometimes easier to just cave in than to have to keep giving the explanation that there's nothing wrong.  And as it did here, it just makes the people who complained think they were right.  It's just plain annoying.

Thank GOD there's not a Doozer named Digger.


  1. Well Lord knows we've had plenty of time to get used to this sort of annoyance. Remember, this is the society where the Teletubbies are gay, Mighty Mouse does drugs and Jack-In-The-Box restaurants were really going to blow you up in their drive-through lane.

    Modern communications have performed miracles in linking the people of the world. On the downside, it has also given a voice to people who (to borrow a quote from my late father) are "flat et up with the dumbass".

  2. Oy! Maybe this post should have been called "Tales of the Easily Offended!" Some people just aren't happy unless they're finding things to get riled-up over, maybe just to get attention, or maybe they're just plain dopes. As Danny Kaye said in THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY: "Your small minds are musclebound with suspicion! That's because the only exercise you get is jumping to conclusions!"