Recently I saw a performance of the Muppets' band “The Electric Mayhem” from 2009. Pretty great!
It occurred to me how many years have passed since the heyday of the Muppet Show in the late 1970's. The fact that this young-ish audience was so excited about this show said something about the staying power of these characters.
It made me think of the less-than-human but also MORE than human status of the abstract characters of the Muppets, animated characters like The Simpsons, and comic characters like the Peanuts, Calvin and Hobbes, and various Superheroes.
Even though superheroes are played by various actors in movies, the characters transcend those actors by existing in animation, comics, and in other productions played by different actors.
Of course, there's a lot to be said for great actors putting their stamp on an iconic character and bringing it to life, with all the nuance and specifics that only a human can really do.
But when a character is a sort of abstraction, simplified down to its essence, in comics, animation, or puppetry, it's free to express just what its creator wants it to…in a way, that can almost be more real than a real person.
I think the real power in those characters is that they're not tied to a human actor we can see. And that they're boiled down to an essential personality. There's a purity to them when they're written right. It's not that they're a cliche “type”, but they have a simple, focused, core to who they are, and it makes them even better than real. It can put them on an iconic or mythological level.
The best characters do that, I think, and when it works, they're timeless because of it.
Have a good one!
Oh, here's that Electric Mayhem show:
Banes at 12:00AM, July 18, 2019
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