Saturday, March 2, 2013

Random Muppet #35: The Cat in the Hat

On the Muppet Wiki, there is a "Random Muppet" button which sends you to the page of one of the thousands of Muppets in existence. I will press the button and discuss the importance of the Muppet that comes up, no matter how obscure. No skips. No redos. This is the Random Muppet Challenge.

Random Muppet #35: The Cat in the Hat

The feline in the chapeau.

Performers:  Bruce Lanoil and Martin P. Robinson

Muppet Universe of Origin:  The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss

Most Significant Appearance:  The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss, November 17, 1996, "The Simplifier"

Dr. Seuss's world-famous 1957 story The Cat in the Hat introduced us to a meddlesome troublemaker whose attempts to entertain and delight result in chaos and destruction, before he is faced to clean up the mess that he has created.

A children's icon is born.

The Cat in the Hat became the face of Seuss's enterprise, because America loves a good story in which horrible disasters are made and then fixed.  There was always something slightly sinister about the Cat, due to the way he shows up out of nowhere to cause mayhem.  He is most likely the corporeal form of Loki the trickster god.

When the Henson Company decided to make The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss, all of Seuss's famous creations would be included.  The Grinch, Horton the Elephant, Fox in Socks, Sam-I-Am, and Yertle the Turtle were all featured.  But the star had to be the Cat in the Hat, of course.  Unfortunately, he took more of the host/narrator role as he focused on various new stories around the world of Seussville.

What a place to live.

Unlike Seuss's classic stories, very few of the episodes served as metaphors for mature issues and themes, like environmentalism, racism, and war.  Instead, epsiodes focused on kids show fare like "don't be afraid of the dark" or "let's cure a hiccup."  Each episode still had it's fare share of nonsensical rhyming, but a lot of the heart was missing.

In one episode, however, the Cat returned to his former glory.  In "The Simplifier," a harried husband and father frets over being too busy.  The Cat introduces a new product known as the "Super Deluxe Simplify Machine."  The more parts that are added to the machine, the greater effect it has in simplifying your life.

Ironically, the way it works is quite complicated.

As the father becomes more and more obsessed with building the machine, he begins to neglect his family, his job, and his health.  Finally, our nightmarish becapped-feline from hell has returned with another moralizing warning.

Never let this Cat into your house.

The Cat however makes one last deal, allowing the father to return the machine, thus simplifying his life...back to where it was at the beginning of the story.  But least now he has a newfound appreciation for life.  All thanks to the Cat in the Hat.

Why Is He the Most Important Muppet?

"The greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing the world that he did not exist."
- Charles Baudelaire

As the Cat in the Hat became more commercialized, many begin to forget that his origins were in a cautionary tale about the dangers of letting strangers into your home.  Everyone viewed the Cat as a hero, due to his remorse at causing suffering.  But as this episode reminds us, we should not be fooled by his charming exterior.

The Cat in the Hat is a demonic force and should be avoided at all costs.

The original Slenderman.

Theodor Geisel was an amazing creator, much like Jim Henson, and his characters have stuck with us and will continue to be a part of our culture for generations to come.  As stated before, he did not just create stories for children.  He wrote warnings for adults disguised as children's tales.  Like many folkloric artists before him, Geisel had a gift.  I'm not saying that his story is akin to the legends of Robert Johnson, but there is no denying that the Cat became more powerful than the man.

Who is in control here?

In all seriousness, the fact that Seuss's work can house such deep meanings his a testament to the man's craft.  So grab your favorite picture book today and celebrate the birthday of the man who made reading fun and rewarding.

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

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