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I've cut away some of the article that focus on fastfood.
Fast food and The Muppet Show -dangerous cultural import ?
What difference are there on a Danish hot dog booth and a restaurant with American fast food? Is it a acceptance of violence and uninhibited career race with every means, that the Muppet puppets are trying to sneak on us as noisy entertainment ? These are some of the questions the article looks into with our roles as consumers of imported culture. The Authors background is American, but she have lived in Denmark for several years, were she among others are teaching on Denmark's Teaching Collage.
Copenhagen city hall square has recently gotten a boring zit on it's nose; Right were Strøget starts, theres opened a bragging Burger King restaurant, number two in Copenhagen. Why is a outlet for American food like huge burgers, called Doubble Whoppers, a thorn in my eye, an American, that have lived in Copenhagen for 10 years? It's because the look of this phenomenon on the streets of Copenhagen, is a symbol of the worst of the 1970's American culture.
The stomachs gas stations
As we all know, we are all consumers of culture. American culture, as it appears through movies, TV and other mass media, reflects The American Way of Life. It happens that other countries uncritical takes parts of this way of life. A lot of them are good, but some of them can create a crack in the host countrys own cultural pattern. In order to see it, you have to know the background, know the values and way of life behind the cultural export. It's some of the elements I want to tell about here: The social, cultural and commercial values. Burger King is the bridgehead of the invasion of fast food in Europe...........text removed, it's about burger king and fast food, not relevant for the Muppet parts......
The Muppet puppets and their ”father”
You could just as easily draw a parallel line to another American export: The Muppet Shows – and take the cultural glasses on. And look at the philosophy behind the show that the Danes have adopted, adults and kids alike. We love The Muppets – like the rest of the around 235 million viewers in the other 106 countries. The Muppet Show that have conquered the American viewers hearts and brains, have apparently been able to do the same in the rest of the world – in countries with different cultural patterns. The Muppets has – if anyone should be in doubt about it – a character list of 15 “people”; puppets in human, animal or fable like appearance. Every week they are setting up a show, a entertainment show around the weekly guest, some celebrity. The shows host Kermit the Frog, is a regular attendant, as is the bear Fozzie who hopes to be a famous actor and the flirting singer Miss Piggy – and then theres the rest of the crew, musicians and fable creatures. The show includes musicals, dance, sketches and fast one liners from time to time. Kids and adults alike are getting entertain by this. The Muppets have occasionally broken out of television – they have made a 8 million dollar movie and published a 190 paged book with some of their most famous sketches. The Muppet mania have also resulted in the famous characters have appeared on all kinds of toys, games and yo-yo's. The Copenhagen hotel Anglererres confectioner's shop, Désirée, have had figures made out of marzipan on display. If you take a critical look behind the Muppet Show's glimmer and smartness, then you can see some very thoughtful things. The man behind the funny show are the 42 year old Jim Henson, a cool, serious business man, that admit that he is not very funny by nature. In his childhood Henson was fascinated by television. He made a puppet, a rat, that he used in a local show in Maryland. He also created puppets for a TV commercial, for coffee. The happy puppet asks the angry puppet what he thinks about the coffee brand, and the angry puppet responds that he has never heard about it, then the happy one shoots him down with a cannon! Henson made so much money on his first attempt with puppet sketches that he could drive to school in his very own Rolls Royce.
Violence as family entertainment
Henson's Muppet show are noisy and very fast, and funny. Most of the characters are sweet and cuddly. However theres one thing that separates The Muppet Show from the children shows from my childhood; thats the violence in The Muppet Show. It's full of a silent acceptance of violence, as a way to settle disputes or ending a sketch, and violence are a frequent on the show. Bombs and explosions are used to eliminate the competition, when two Muppet characters are arguing about who should go on next. If one of them can't convince the other he hits him in the head with a cane. The Swedish Chef gets shoot on and bitten by his own lobsters, strangled in his own spaghetti. The unexpected always happens on The Muppet Shows, but these happenings tend to be violent; cigars that blows up in the face on a cast member, while the others are laughing of the victim. Gonzo's trumpet explodes, catches on fire, when he blows in it. Explosions eliminate the cast members in the middle of a sketch, in the middle of a sentence. Nice looking characters turn into fierce monsters, and we are having fun. Slapstick comedy is a old known phenomenon, and maybe there is not anything wrong with that form of entertainment, but this is something different; it happens with shootings and bombs, and we are laughing and accept it all a natural thing. And now Danish children sees these shows. If theres violence on television, it's often so late that the children have already gone to bed, but The Muppet Show are entertainment for the entire family, and the children gets the violence presented as entertainment. In comparison the Danish children show with the puppet Anna, is just childsfood. One of the regular segments are about a veterinarian's hospital, were Dr. Bob, the surgeon, tells jokes while he examines his suffering patients. They die, while he cracks one joke after another and just pull on the shoulders of it. Life and death, is taken lightly. The very hard-working Miss Piggy Lee represent one of the worst human traits. I one segment, in a attempt to make Kermit jealous, she asks Scooter if he will make Kermit believe that the evenings guest star is crazy with her. Scooter says: And lie! I won't do it Miss Piggy. To which she answers: I'm gonna make you flat with a karate chop. But Scooter just replies with: OK. The shoot from Henson's youth, with the cannon against the puppet, that did not know the coffee brand, has not gone traceless past todays Muppet Show. It is said, that the concept of violence is as American as apple pie. The Muppet Show is a big slice of apple pie, in a innocent packing.
Elbows are more important than talent
Success and a star career are the critical success criteria for all the puppets on the show, and they are all fighting for the chance to show what they can do and to be discovered so they can become rich and famous. Kermit the sympathetic frog, does what he can to be the middleman in all the fighting. But the means and methods in this hunt for success and money are not something to look forward to. The Muppets bribe each other, they suck up to the big guns on the show to influence them, they lie and gossip about each other. The Muppets are getting ahead in life, not so much because of their talent, but due to their elbows and aggressiveness; Not with hard work but with tricks and bizarre ideas that can get noticed. It's not a question about what you can do, but who you know.. The message is, that if you have elbows and energy, then you will have success. Is that the message, we want our children, and ourselves, to live by? One of The Muppets, Sam the Eagle, stands for honesty, dignity and good moral. He is one of those that are being made the most fun of on the show. A moralizing fool, that interrupt the most noisy, wildest and funniest segments with his lifted finger. The others reactions makes the viewers to see him as a prudish weirdo. And indirectly; anyone that criticize The Muppets, and thereby the materialistic “American way of life”, have to be ignored, cast out of the community, “the good company”. Theres also more harmless segments such as some songs from the 50's, duets from Gilbert and Sulivan, although mostly as parodies, and theres also some innocent fun, “good, clean fun”, as you say in America. But if we without any critical sense, just accept everything in the show as cute, sweet and harmless, then we will be totally unprepared for those things that are not that harmless. Opposed Danish children television, theres a fast pace over The Muppets, and it's noisy and chocking. Maybe the explanation for this is that the entire American TV entertainment are commercial. Theres always competition between soap brand, headache medicine and everything else that have to be advertised in breaks on the TV shows. And theres so many channels to chose from. It's this commercial competition, that gets the producers to chose the “hard hitting” arguments in hope that it will get the viewer to stay in front of the screen.
The prepacked – and dangerous
The prepacked mass produced products, that are being exported, like Muppet Show, disco movies and Tarzan comics, has their roots in a society pattern, alifestyle, a set of cultural social norms and values. And when we import these shows, movies and comics, we are also importing rules about how the society should evolve, what is right and wrong. We have to be alert to this influence, and realize it's potential dangers in the long run. Of course you should not criticize everything, just because it's American export goods. Not every American fast food chain are just as commercialized. But once we open the prepacked, then we open for something, that is packed for consumers with a different cultural background, and we get influenced by it. It's to easy just to shout “Sam the Eagle”, boyscout moral, after anyone that is aware of possible dangers, and call him a party pooper, that ruins the fun for everyone. It's just to easy to stick the head in the bushes, without admitting there is a possible danger. The old warning: “Caveat emptor” -Let the buyer beware- can't be repeated to often. Theres laws and regulations about the contains in food, informative labels on wrappings. What we need now is a investigation of what we can do to create rules and regulations, that can aide and guide the buyer ,when what he should be aware about is not just a can of pineapple or soap.
Henrik, thank you for posting this -- it's really fun to have stuff like this on the wiki. I have a bunch of negative articles like this about Sesame Street (which I should post about one of these days), but I've never seen one about The Muppet Show. If you get around to doing the translation, I'd love to see it... -- Danny (talk) 16:13, 7 January 2009 (UTC)