Remember That Song?

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August 26, 2016 by T. Gregory Argall

SPOILER ALERT: This blog post contains spoilers for a film that was released seventeen years ago. If you are ridiculously far behind on your movie-watching, well 1/ you’ve been warned, and 2/ what the hell have you been doing with your time?

In recent years it has become sort of in vogue for films to include subtle hints at what may transpire in subsequent sequels. This trend is quite prevalent in the Marvel Studios movies, and on the DC side of things, it’s pretty much the only way to justify half of the confusing stuff that happened in Batman V Superman.

But that wasn’t always the case. There was a time when films, even those with the potential for great popular appeal, were planned only one at a time. A sequel was a bonus after the fact, not something you could waste time setting up in an earlier movie. Only the most optimistic and forward-thinking of screenwriters and plottists would dare consider such a thing.

Someone like Jim Henson or Jerry Juhl.

In the 1999 film “Muppets From Space,” renowned Muppet and chicken fetishist, Gonzo, discovers that he is, in fact, from another planet. This is revealed to him when he is contacted by aliens who want to take him home again.

Gonzo-and-camilla-the-chicken2

(On a side note, I’ve always considered this movie to be Gonzo’s “coming out” film. Even as recently as 1999 (which I sometimes mistake for “just a couple of years ago”) in the entertainment industry homosexuality was still just the punchline to a joke on a sitcom. It was a quick and simple way to get a few more laughs with a supporting character, but it was rarely something that was addressed with seriousness and understanding. When Gonzo accepted that he is an alien, it was like a burden had been lifted from him. He said, “I always felt that I was different, and now I know why, and I know that it’s okay.” (Or words to that effect; it’s been a while since I saw the film.) Then he turned to Kermit and the other Muppets and looked worried. “You’re alright with me being an alien, aren’t you?” he asked nervously. The whole scene beautifully captured the fear and trepidation of gay young people, worried that their family and friends will turn against them if the come out.)

Twenty years earlier, in “The Muppet Movie,” Gonzo sang a song called “I’m Going To Go Back There Someday,” which was written by Kenneth Ascher and Paul Williams.
Paul Williams is mainly known for two things, being short and writing some sappy love songs for The Carpenters. But he also wrote songs for movies, and that’s where he really shone. As a lyricist, he’s a brilliantly creative and subversive bastard, in the best possible way. His lyrics combined with the scratchy uncertainty in the voice of Gonzo Muppeteer Dave Goelz resulted in a wonderfully sad song.

Here are the lyrics…

This looks familiar, vaguely familiar,
Almost unreal, yet, it’s too soon to feel yet.
Close to my soul, and yet so far away.
I’m going to go back there someday.

Sun rises, night falls, sometimes the sky calls.
Is that a song there, and do I belong there?
I’ve never been there, but I know the way.
I’m going to go back there someday.

Come and go with me, it’s more fun to share,
We’ll both be completely at home in midair.
We’re flyin’, not walkin’, on featherless wings.
We can hold onto love like invisible strings.

There’s not a word yet for old friends who’ve just met.
Part heaven, part space, or have I found my place?
You can just visit, but I plan to stay.
I’m going to go back there someday.
I’m going to go back there someday.

 

 

It was one of Jim Henson’s favourite songs, and Goelz sang it at Henson’s funeral.

In the context of “The Muppet Movie” it served as a moving song in a touching scene that fit in well with the overall story.  However, hindsight being 20/20, reading the lyrics now with the knowledge of the revelations that came two decades later, the song subliminally screams, “Gonzo is from outer space!”
No wonder it was a favourite song of Henson’s; he knew what it was actually about.

Sadly Jim Henson died before the true meaning of the song was revealed. Fortunately his long-time friend and collaborator Jerry Juhl wrote both movies and so was able to maintain the continuity of the message.
A twenty year foreshadow to a sequel that no one knew was going to happen; that’s the sort long-term magic that made the Muppets great.

Try to be nice to each other.

tga

 

 

 

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