The League XII: “When I Was 12…” Part 3 – Jim Henson.


For those of you who haven’t been following this series, this is part of the League of Extraordinary Bloggers.  Every week the League is given a question, which we answer and have some fun with.  This week’s question was just too big for one article.  So I’ve been splitting it up.  Oh, speaking of this week’s question.

The League of Extraordinary Bloggers was created by Brian at Cool and Collected.  Check out all the cool posts on his site.

This week’s question:

Grab Rufus and head to the phone booth, because this week, we’re going back in time! Dial up the year you turned 12, and revisit the last official year of your “childhood.”

When I was 12 it was 1990.  This post was originally going to be about the movies of 1990.  But there weren’t any movies that affected me in a way that I’m still feeling over 20 years later.  Look, I love Predator 2 as well but it didn’t change my life.  So the choices were to scrap a movie themed post in this series, or find something that affected me in this year.  I found that notable events of 1990.

On May 16, 1990 Jim Henson died.

I remember the day vividly.  We lived in a different house at the time.  I think we were only there for a year or two.  But it was far enough away from our school that we had to get a ride in every day.  If I were walking to school, like my brother and I did when we lived at the house before and the house after this one, then I may have never heard the radio that day.

Mom was driving us into school and had her choice of FM morning radio.  Probably some “oldies” station playing those acts a 12 year old thinks are ancient.  Like the Beatles.  In between songs and commercials the DJ came on.  Clear skies, temperature is blah blah and Jim Henson died last night.  No more Muppets.

What in the hell?  Jim Henson cant die.  He was already iconic to a 12 year old.  I had seen the Muppet Show, the Muppet movies, Sesame Street, Dark Crystal, and I’m sure even more things that I cant remember right now.  I tried talking about his death at school, even at the local comic book shop later that day.  Either no one knew of his death, or they didn’t care.  Not in the way that I did.  I had to figure out what I was feeling and why, and what it mattered to me.  My 12 year old mind may have not been able to express it, but my 33 year old mind can.

Jim Henson wasn’t the only thing that I felt died on that day.  My youth, my innocence and my belief in good also died.  Jim Henson was good.

I don’t mean a nice guy.  Nor do I mean he did an adequate job.  I mean he was GOOD.  Like Superman or Jesus, Jim Henson was nothing but good.

At 12 the realization that not everyone in the world is good has begun to sink in, if not already taken up residence.  Your parents talk about people they thought they could trust and you over hear it.  There is a scandal in the community.  Maybe something bad happens to you or someone you love.  The world is becoming scarier.  But there is nothing but good in the Muppets.

I cant imagine a parent seeing their child watching Muppets or Sesame Street and saying “turn that shit off!”  They educate, they entertain, and all without a swear.  Without violence.  With so much love that is becomes a tangible element that comes out of the screen and embeds inside of your heart.  And all of it, every felt fabric and googly eye was thanks to one man.

Stewie on Family Guy says a joke that goes something like this:  Jim Henson had a wait and see approach and now we have wrong sounding Muppets.

Very true, and for awhile, a concern.  What if the Muppets become lost without a leader.  What if its never quite the same again.  And no, it isn’t the same.  It has evolved.  Because good can cause more good.  The “pay it forward” cliche.  Well thankfully there are people who took the love that Jim Henson created and inspired, and have gifted us with their creations.

Jason Segel’s The Muppets is a wonderful movie.  My nephew knows every single line and every song.  I saw it opening week and had a tear in my eye.  Then I watched “Being Elmo” a documentary on the man who created Elmo – Kevin Clash.  The rock upon which the church of Henson was built.  He saw the Muppets, and it changed his life.  A life that he then dedicated to creating characters that would help change the world for the better.  Be annoyed by Elmo all you want, that fuzzy red character is the security blanket for a world of children.

Its a very different and a very scary world today.  Much more so than it was in 1990.  But the legacy of one man shows us all that magic can still exist in the world.

I believed in Jim Henson, and so did Jason Segel, and Kevin Clash

And if three whole people,
Why not — four?
And if four whole people,
Why not–more, and
more, and


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