Why Did You Leave the Swamp in the First Place?

The film, more than any other, that made me want to one day work in the movie business was the original "The Muppet Movie."

I can even remember the scene, right at the very beginning, just after Kermit is done singing "The Rainbow Connection." Dom DeLuise, lost in the swamp and beset by alligators, says to Kermit as he sits on a log in the middle of nowhere, "Singing, Telling jokes, playing the banjo, who knows, if you get your tongue fixed, you could make millions of people happy."

As Arnie, the agent, paddles away in his rowboat, Kermit muses for a moment and says aloud, "Millions of people happy?" And, the scene cuts to Kermit, riding his bicycle and on his way to the dream factory.

Kermit left the swamp, traveled across the US, gathering a band of dreamers, dodging the machinations of a murderous fast food entrepreneur and having all sorts of misadventures with the express intention of "Making millions of people happy."

It's been more than twenty-five years since I first saw that movie. Since then, I've seen it at least fifty more times. I even wrote a paper about it my senior year in film school. More than any lust for fame; which I'm not likely to get, more than any greed for riches: a losing proposition in today's media market, that one statement did more to inform and inspire my younger self to this career than any other, "To make millions of people happy."

I don't much acknowledge that ideal anymore. In the interim decades and through two different movie careers, I've become much more of a mercenary. I don't pick my shows based on their message, their artistry or what awards they might win. I pick my shows based on the rate of pay, the length of the engagement, the places I might get to travel and how much I like the UPM. Owing to the fact that my work is administrative and virtually none of my contribution actually ends up in the screen, whether or not anyone who watches or likes the movie doesn't much figure into my professional calculus.

This morning, though, I remembered what that old desire was like. I got a hint of why I got into this in the first place combined with a token to my own adult vanity, a touch of mercenary pride and the chance to "Make millions of people happy."

Weekend of February 26th, 2011, we're number one at the box office.


nursemyra said...

Farrelly Brothers?

Snoozepossum said...

This movie has also a big "keep yourself alive" thing for me; not for being part of the film industry, but as a "be true to you" thing. The tone and quality of Henson's voice when he spoke those lines for Kermit are one of the many reason's he's always been one of my heroes. I always took that bit as a validation of the idea that you can be yourself AND give other people something cool.

waldo said...

I always knew you could do it