I was listening to the Muppet Babies theme song the other day (don’t judge me!), and I made a point of studying its lyrics. (Surely you’ll concede that somebody has to intently critique the lyrics to songs from Saturday morning cartoons that aired 25 years ago.)
Point being, I noticed something terrible. Note what each of the Babies says in the opening theme:
Kermit: I like adventure.
Piggy: I like romance.
Fozzie: I love great jokes.
Animal: Animal dance!
Scooter: I’ve got my computer.
Skeeter: I swing through the air.
Rowlf: I play the piano.
Gonzo: And I’ve got blue hair.
Now, I admit that Gonzo’s “I’ve got blue hair” is hardly characterization at its deepest and most stirring, but whereas Kermit’s an adventurer and Fozzie’s a comedian and Rowlf’s a musician, Scooter’s only claim to fame is, “I’ve got my computer.”
I’ve got my computer.
You can almost sense how startled and saddened and self-conscious Scooter felt when it came time for him to engage in the traditional opening-theme self-promotion. It’s as if he muttered “What? Me?” and then looked himself up and down and shrugged his shoulders and gazed hopelessly around the nursery and finally, resigned and timid and filled with self-hatred, he just sort of dejectedly mumbled, “I’ve got my computer.” (I like to think that he followed it up by mumbling, “I guess,” and we just couldn’t hear him because his voice was so faint and defeated.)
Compare Scooter’s sad attempt at uniqueness and personality with the shout-outs the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles provide in their theme song:
Splinter taught them to be ninja teens (He’s a radical rat!)
Leonardo leads, Donatello does machines (That’s a fact, Jack!)
Raphael is cool, but crude (Gimme a break!)
Michelangelo is a party dude (Party!)
The rat is both a mentor and “radical,” while Leonardo gets to be the leader, which is actually a big deal; eighty percent of kids on the playground will cite the leader as their favorite character, no matter how little he has going for him beyond that title. Meanwhile, Donatello not only “does” machines (um…?), but he is allowed a sassy reply: “That’s a fact, Jack!” Likewise, Mikey is permitted the opportunity to gleefully affirm his designated trait: “Party!”
The Turtles are so self-assured that they feel no need to even cite their personality traits themselves. Instead, they leave that crass chore to a third-person narrator, whom they then feel free to deride as they see fit, as Raphael does when he is dismissed as crude: “Gimme a break!”
Can you imagine Scooter exhibiting such defiance and contrariness if some omniscient outsider sang his praises for him? (Here we’re pretending that ownership of a computer could be said to qualify as a praise worth singing.) If a third-person narrator sang, “Scooter’s got his computer,” that frail little Muppet would probably weep with gratitude.
Think about this: Scooter’s entire personality boils down to consumerism. It’s not what he is, but what he has. All that he is is that which he has purchased. (Or, more likely, that which Nanny has purchased for him.) Scooter’s going to grow up to be that guy who gets trampled to death trying to buy a $50 DVD player at Wal-Mart on the day after Thanksgiving, isn’t he?
One is reminded of Faith No More’s “Naked in Front of the Computer”:
In how many ways and words
Can you say nothing?
Millions of ways and words
To say nothing.
Seriously: “I’ve got my computer”?
It’s depressing, is what it is.
// Notes from the Road
"Cage the Elephant rocked two sold-out nights at Summerstage and return to NYC for a free show May 29th. Info on that and a preview of the full Summerstage schedule is here.READ the article