Thursday, December 11, 2008

Emmet Otter



Christmas always creeps up on me, and I end up feeling like I didn't experience the season when it's over. So I try to watch Christmas specials and shows leading up to the big day. I love Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas, one of flaming lefty Jim Henson's creations. It's great. I particularly love Ma Otter's song, sadly not on Youtube. It's one of those cheesy odes to how the world might be, if people would let go of fear and anger, and stop insisting that idealism is incompatible with the real world. There are often efforts within liberalism to try and downplay or marginalize artistic statements like that, the "Imagine" sentiment within liberalism, because it's not argumentatively helpful; those deriding liberalism leap at hints of idealism or "mushiness". It's easy to caricature those statements, and it's true that they rarely belong in specific policy debate. Yet I find the sentiment contained within those kinds of artistitc statements of idealism essential to the soul of the liberal mission, and I never want it written out of our movement, whatever the tactical costs.

Here's the thing about Emmet Otter: when Emmet's band and Ma (uh, spoilers) lose the talent show to Riverbottom Nightmare Band, there's no suggestion that it was because of cheating or impropriety. That's certainly what you'd expect in a holiday special of the type. But, no-- Ma and Emmet just get beat. It's a pretty remarkable choice, plot wise.

4 comments:

individualfrog said...

The Riverbottom Nightmare Band just plain out-rock them, anyone can see that!

Anonymous said...

There are often efforts within liberalism to try and downplay or marginalize artistic statements like that, the "Imagine" sentiment within liberalism, because it's not argumentatively helpful; those deriding liberalism leap at hints of idealism or "mushiness".

The same argument has been made about Christianity, not least by CS Lewis.

Heck, even Stephen Colbert sang about it in *his* Christmas special ("Worse Things to Believe In").

Scott H Payne said...

Artistic expression of idealism has, I think, an important role to play in our collective progression. Writing a song like Imagine or pretty much anything by Springsteen has the potential to reach a lot more people than a public policy argument -- the potential impact numbers wise is much, much greater. The trick, then, is to take all of those inspired people and figure out how to plug them in to the public policy debate, as well.

Some folks just naturally follow policy debates and politics, but most don't. If you really want to affect some kind of significant change, you need to find a medium that speaks to all those folks who are, for the most part, just trying to live their lives. In that regard, there is no substitute for inspiration.

bluecat said...

This was one of my favorite books as a child. I haven't thought about it in years. Did one of the instruments involve a washboard? That sticks out for me, probably because I didn't know what a washboard was. Thanks for the reference to this great book. (and TV special.)