Friday, November 19, 2010
So a good friend send me an email after my post on Monday, asking if I'd considered that the Kermit The Frog "It Gets Better" video I shared wasn't an official Kermit The Frog video from Jim Henson Studios/Children's Television Workshop/Sesame Street. It's a good point.
I don't know Chris Tuttle (who posted the video), but yeah, I guess it's probably someone who got a really good Kermit puppet and did the voice and video themselves. Because they probably wished there would be an official Kermit the Frog "It Gets Better" video out there to talk to kids about being isolated and bullied and urge them to speak up - to urge all of us to STAND UP and make things better.
And there was no official video.
So this is sort of a guerilla public service message.
I think there are a bunch of issues to untangle here.
1. While anti-bullying seems a universally accepted and important message, isn't it a slippery slope to say it's okay to take someone else's intellectual property and image and use it to promote an idea if they haven't approved it? What if the PETA people did a video where Kermit spoke up against eating meat - and became a guerilla vegetarian spokesfrog? That might be fine for vegetarians, but not so cool with the people who control Kermit.
2. If anti-bullying is such a universally accepted message, why hasn't there been an official Kermit The Frog "It Gets Better" video? Why haven't they had the real Kermit STAND UP in that way?
Do you remember what happened back when PBS shot the "Sugartime!" episode of "Postcards of Buster" that showed a two-mom family? Margaret Spellings (the then Secretary of Education) wrote a letter to PBS basically threatening them and asking for the government's money back for that episode! Because there's a public funding element to PBS/CTW/Sesame Street, there's a vulnerability to the prejudices of lawmakers - and that prevents some really great stuff from happening.
3. There's a fair-use right for comedy/satire - should there also be a fair-use right for public safety? I mean, Kermit's done ads for the National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Board (nonwithstanding there are people who don't want kids drinking so much cow milk) - but I bet they got permission.
4. Why haven't Ernie and Bert done a "It Gets Better" video?
5. What would Jim Henson do? We can't ask him because he died back in 1990, but what would be in keeping with his spirit?
It will be interesting to see if the guerilla public service announcement video is allowed to stay up at youtube. Maybe PBS/CTW/Sesame Street/The Jim Henson Company can't come out and officially approve this message, but they can let it stand as is. Or will they "officially" do something about confronting bullying that reaches outside their preschool audience? Or will they just hire Chris to help spread the good word?
Because at the end of the day, I do love this Kermit the Frog "It Gets Better" video. But I admit, it's a tangled situation.
What do you think?