The Lessons of Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock
I’ve sometimes wondered what allowed me to resist the suburban conditioning of my youth. Was it experimenting with mind-alerting substances? My appetite for reading? My anti-authoritarian tendencies?
After reading a fascinating article yesterday, there’s a new possibility I can add to the potential factors at play in my formative years: Fraggle Rock.
Elizabeth Stevens has a piece titled Why the Ideal Creative Workplace Looks A Lot Like “Fraggle Rock” published last month at The Awl, and it’s a great read. Here’s an excerpt describing Jim Henson’s vision for the show:
“Fraggle Rock” “was made in service of a compelling vision,” Stevenson said. When Jim Henson brought together the three people who would ultimately create the world of “Fraggle Rock”—head writer Jerry Juhl, designer Michael Frith, and writer Joceyln Stevenson—he told them he wanted to make an international show that would “help stop war.” His initial producer on the project, Duncan Kenworthy, said that everyone “almost laughed” at him, because “it’s such a—on the face of it—impossible, enormous, grandiose sort of idea.”
Henson not only made an anti-war show, he did it with a light hand and silliness. The episode “Fraggle Wars” deals with McCarthyism overtly (“My name is Mokey Fraggle, and I am not now nor have I ever been a member of the enemy Fraggles”). But most of the time, the message is imperceptible; it was written in the structure of the show’s universe. In the show there are three species that don’t see eye-to-eye, both figuratively and literally. The Doozers were “knee-high to a Fraggle,” and the Gorgs were sheer giants. In DVD interviews, Kenworthy explained that “Fraggle Rock” modeled how conflicts could be “loosened” by exploring each of the different points of view involved. Adults may be a lost cause, but “the children,” he said, “could understand the Gorgs… the Fraggles… the Doozers, and see why they couldn’t understand each other.”
“Fraggle Rock” was made a few years before the toppling of the Berlin Wall and aired in countries across the world (the United States, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, and eastern Europe). It was key that the show rejected the “good versus evil” thinking of the Cold War, and introduced the idea of being a global citizen to an emerging Millennial generation during their most formative years. Did Henson stop war? No, but he may have helped change the attitude of the next generation. The very fact that the show had a compelling mission—this dream of peace—made it a peaceful place to work.
Read the whole article, it’s great. Stevens delves into Henson’s Fraggle Rock workplace to figure why literally everyone who worked on the show said it was the best job they ever had. What she finds is the antidote to corporate culture.
Another world is possible.