Friday, October 14, 2011

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Happy birthday?  Why bother?

In Episode 117 of Fraggle Rock "Marooned," bubbly, fearless and optimistic Red Fraggle is assigned the duties of distracting the negative, melancholy Boober Fraggle on his birthday so that his friends can throw him a surprise party.  She is upset that she has to spend time with the pessimistic Fraggle, working hard so as not to spoil the surprise for a person who would not appreciate it anyway.  She takes the nervous worrywart to the Spiral Caverns and soon they both find themselves trapped in a cave-in.

Surprisingly, while faced with the sudden realization that this could be their last moments in Fraggle Roack, Boober becomes calm and level-headed while Red panics.  No one places any blame on the other, and no animosity is shared.  The two friends are in this together.  When all hope seems lost and they can no longer hear their companions trying to free them, they comfort themselves with "The Friendship Song."

Try a little longer for your friends.  Try a little stronger for your friends.

After the song, the air starts getting noticeably thinner. This prompts Red to ask the hardest question she has ever faced.  "What do you think it's die?"  Boober does not have the answer, but instead he describes a beautiful soap bubble he once saw.  Perfectly round and full of amazing colors.  And in an instant, it was gone.

Fraggle Philosopy 101: Mortality

Life is harsh and mysterious because it is so fragile.  We can not fully understand it, but with a friend by our side, we can cope and make it meaningful. We can discuss and exchange our thoughts.  We can learn from each other, about each other, and in a way, improve each other.

The bonds of friendship remain a constant theme in Henson's universe.  The connections we make with other creatures were, to him, the purpose of life.  The strength of friendship is so great that it even brought one mythical animal into existence!

In the early years of Sesame Street, Big Bird met a bizarre looking beast known as Mr. Snuffleupagus.  This wooly-mammoth-esque thing would only appear to Big Bird, and whenever Big Bird attempted to tell the adults on Sesame Street about him, he would conveniently disappear, making Big Bird look like a liar and a fool.  They cited Big Bird's large imagination to the creation of such an animal.  For fourteen years, this stunt lasted.  Bird and Snuffy grew closer and closer.  No one else had a chance to interact with Snuffy, and many assumed he did not exist.

Eventually, the writers of the show realized that 1) they could no longer come up with scenarios to keep Snuffy comically hidden from the adults and 2) this was not a safe concept to be teaching children.  From a child's perspective, they were learning not to inform adults about strange occurrences and people in their life for it would only annoy them and they would not believe you.  It was decided that it was time to introduce Snuffy to the world.

With Elmo's help, Big Bird succeeds in getting the Snuffleupagus to stay put.  The adults finally meet him and most importantly, they apologize for doubting Big Bird.  This friend was an important aspect of his life and no one was willing to acknowledge that.  This frustration caused a lot of tension for the young bird.  But, nothing was more nerve-racking than when he finally revealed his best friend to his Sesame Street family.

As you can see in the clip, he goes back and forth on deciding whether this is what he really wants.  Yes, he wants to be respected, but part of him enjoyed being the only one who got to experience Snuffy.  It made their relationship all the more special.  Only he and Snuffy shared secrets and adventures that no one else was allowed to be a part of.  In his mind, Snuffy was the greatest friend he had ever met.  What if no one else sees him that way?  What if no one else understands him?  What if no one else gets along with him?  Or worse...what if they do?

What if he likes someone else more than Big Bird?  What if he realizes he has more in common with Bob?  Or Linda?  Or Susan?  Or Gordon?  What if, by letting him free, Snuffy decides he is better off not being friends with Big Bird?

No.  Big Bird made the right decision.  It would be selfish to keep such a great person all to himself.

Although no one would blame him for trying.

Back under Fraggle Rock, Boober and Red have also discovered that friends can appear right when you least expected it, in the bleakest of situations.  When the weight of the world is looming down on you and you've lost all hope, that's when you must rely on your friends.  You may have given up, but they have not.  They see the greatest potential in you.  They will continue to encourage you when no one else will.  They ask for nothing but the assurance that you trust them.  They will love you, no matter what happens.

On a Fraggle's birthday, they are instructed to learn a great wisdom to reflect their new maturity.  Boober learned a valuable lesson while trapped under the boulder.

Believe in your friends.  Whether they are far away or right by your side, they are always there for you.

Happy Birthday!

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