The Muppets: When a person is not a person

Posted: December 30, 2011 by Emilio Garofalo Neto in Family
Tags: , , ,

By Josaías Junior

In one of the funniest moments in the movie, the recently reunited Muppet crew decides to kidnap a celebrity to participate in their show, and with that, guarantee the broadcast of their show on TV. While discussing the ethics of kidnapping someone, Lew Zealand, the boomerang-fish thrower Muppet (!) ends the issue with amazing discernment: “We come to the conclusion that celebrities are not people”

It is curious that a puppet is the one coming to such conclusion. And in the end, maybe he is right. Not because celebrities aren’t human, but because, many times, that is how we see them. How could this happen?

Man, Muppet or something lesser?

In the previous post we saw that the decisions from Walter, Gary and Mary can be seen in the context of human calling. Gary prepares to leave home to be united to his wife, assuming responsibilities. Walter pursues what he loves, exercises his vocation, also taking responsibilities. Mary corrects her fiancée when necessary, waits for him to take leadership, without really usurping control of the future marriage.

What we can see are features of what God gave in the context of the first covenant. We see work, marriage and even Sabbath (after all, watching Muppet Show is rest). It points to man being man—creator different from creature, and this creature being distinct from creation. But when it comes to celebrities, we see things differently.

Before we proceed, we need to make a distinction. One thing is to be famous in recognition of the good work one does (examples: the Muppets, or, let’s say, Steve Moffat or Flannery O’Connor), another thing is to be famous for being famous, becoming a brand and an object of fetish (a celebrity such as Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton). Nowadays often those things are mingled and we end up confusing the concepts.

The distinction among Creator-man-creation helps us to see whether one lives for the fame of God’s name or our own fame—or infamy.

First, we may think of ourselves as the creator. We may go very wrong thinking that we are gods. This appears in many ways, when we demand to be rewarded and recognized for our mission, without remembering where every good gift comes from. When we want to control or dominate everything rather than what has been given to us; when we see creatures similar to us as servants of our desires.

That is what happens to the movie’s villain, Tex Richman (Chris Cooper). It is for a good reason that his theme song is Let’s talk about me. Watch a human being singing for his own glory. Let us not recognize ourselves in this verse.

He’s Tex Richman / Everybody listen / Just how great it is to be him / (It’s great to be me) / He’s the greatest / You’re the lamest!

Second, we may think that others are the creator. The requirement for a celebrity to appear in the Muppet show in order for it to become relevant reflects very well what we think of the famous ones. They become idols, become mediators, become the authentication of what we are. See, in theory, the Muppets did not need a celebrity. They were good at what they did. People still remembered their work. But why not have some extra help?

How many times do we follow the same idea? When a famous person claims to have become a Christian, we celebrate. When a Christian becomes a celebrity, pages of our newsletters are dedicated to him. There is a desire to show that our message works. That believers are relevant. That the church is not a place only made of the non-powerful, not noble, weak or things that are not. And don’t you dare question the testimony or doctrine of the celebrity.

Third, we may think of people as less than people. Yes, the Muppets kidnap and take Jack Black tied up to the show. Yes, it is funny because Jack Black is a person, and nobody in the audience seems to care—they think it is part of the show. But we do something similar. And since we are not Muppets, it is not funny when we do it.

We act similarly to them in several ways—with kidnapping itself, and abortion, rape, pornography, manipulation, gossip, blackmail and the like. Our desires should pass the test of loving the neighbor.

Most of us will not see ourselves in the list above, but we often laugh at the ridiculous life of some celebrities, sub-celebrities and people who aspire to fame. We have blogs and TV shows dedicated to such things. I am aware that the famous ones do some funny stuff. Here in Brazil, we heard about a couple who invited people to their wedding using a spam list.

But sometimes we overdo it, we laugh at divorce, at adultery, and even death. Those are serious topics, but in the life of celebrities, they become laughing stock. This happens because we often do not acknowledge God’s image in these people.

Conclusion

Notice what the three approaches have in common—none treats human beings as they are. Even when we exalt ourselves as “creators” we become manipulative and inhuman. God created us in his image, and only when we understand our resemblance to him, but at the same time that we are no more than image, we will be able to see ourselves for the people that we are, based on what God says we are. We can love God and love people as God orders us.

Without this comprehension, we will treat our Lord and our neighbor as, ironically, puppets.

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