Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Muppets on the plight of the worker

Friday night, I had an unexpectedly brilliant conversation with a guy who wonderfully articulated his frustration with the dehumanization of the workforce, the abuse of individuals by corporations (or more accurately, the abuse by a broken subset of people high up in large corporations that use the container as an excuse to abuse the containees), and the wonderful, decade-old-but-still relevant book, The Cluetrain Manifesto.

What struck me about the conversation was the passionate, non-vitriolic, erudite but down-to-earth way he deconstructed all of the bad that happens when people higher up a food chain fool themselves into justifying their bad behavior and usury of people below them. It was a very non-Marxist, constructive discussion of where he thought things were broken, how they could be fixed, and -- most importantly -- his refusal to accept that it can not be fixed.

That conversation lived with me throughout the night and into Saturday, and probably made me more aware of this clever little commentary as I was reading issue #3 of the Muppet Sherlock Holmes comic book to my daughters.

For those not aware, BOOM! Studios and writer / artist Roger Langridge have (for me) almost single-handedly rejuvenated the brand, and done the nigh-impossible -- written a comic that works at the adult and kid level in the same way the original variety show did. And folks like Jesse Blaze Snider, Shelli ParolineTim BeedleArmand Villavert Jr., Paul Benjamin, Patrick Storck, and Amy Mebberson (the latter two collaborated on the Sherlock Holmes miniseries, along with Braden Lamb, Deron Bennett, Christopher Burns, and Erika Terriquez), have carried the torch forward with excellent treatments of classics like this and Robin Hood.

But back the Muppets and the plight of the worker.

There's a witty little aside midway through the issue, taking place between the worker (Gonzo), and his boss (who longtime Muppet fans will recognize as the Phantom of the Muppet Theater, introduced waaaay back in season 1):

BOSS: I have my doubts about your ability to do this job.
GONZO: But none of us know what this job is.
BOSS: There's a whole world of folks out there working every day, not sure for what, or what they've accomplished, or what's expected of them. And they do it happily! Every day, for less than you're making!
GONZO: But why not do something you like, and get paid for that?
BOSS: No, no, that's what hobbies are for! You pay to do what you like, and get paid to spend time away from what you like!
GONZO: So I should be happy to be here being unhappy, because you pay me to be here, knowing my reward is having time off to have a little happy time?
BOSS: Exactly! That's how the real world works.

Understandably, this puts Gonzo into an almost irrevocable funk, and concerned co-workers Kermit and Fozzie suspect something is amiss:

FOZZIE: Oh, this isn't good. He's become a work zombie!
KERMIT: Maybe he hasn't had his usual dosage of coffee?
FOZZIE: Let me try something ...
FOZZIE (CONTINUED): Well at least it's payday!
GONZO: Another day another dollar!
FOZZIE: But, hey, the weekend's here!
FOZZIE: How's it going?
GONZO: Ah, the usual ...

And there it is -- unexpected cautionary parodic wisdom by way of the Muppets. Granted, I was probably a bit queued up for it given the previous night's conversation (and my own internal wiring), but that doesn't make it any less astute.