A Kinda-Rant: Can Someone Give Tony Stark a Referral?

Look, I’m not a psychologist or anyone with any type of expertise in mental health. What I am is a film student who is currently being taught to pick up the intricacies of storytelling in this particular medium. While I’m able to read between the lines of the script, I’m generally more accurate in my reading of character arcs and motivations.

After doing a mini-marathon of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), something became blatantly clear to me:

Tony Stark, AKA Iron Man, is in desperate need of help, but nobody around him seems to understand or care.

Before I decided to write this post, I went searching around to see if others have also taken this into account and I’m pleased to say that Marvel fans all over have reached the same conclusion.

Too bad the rest of the Avengers are blind to it.

This article from HubPages explains Tony’s PTSD better than I ever could and this one from Polygon sums up how and why his condition came to be. With these elements already covered, I’m given leeway to approach the topic from the view of an empathetic fan who just wants somebody from within the MCU to actually sit down with Tony and hold some type of intervention.

70% of the disasters in Tony’s life stemmed from his own decisions and mistakes, from trusting Obadiah Stane, to Ultron, to the weapon he designed that ended up placing that shrapnel in his chest in the first place. I suppose it’s understandable that those Marvel enthusiasts that brush Tony off see him as an idiotic, selfish bastard, but from what I’ve assessed, they’re missing the bigger picture by a wide margin.

It’s pretty obvious that I was on Team Iron Man during Captain America: Civil War. I could understand Cap’s side of things, not wanting politics and government policy to draw the line between life and death for the world’s civilians. While I didn’t particularly agree with Tony’s support of the Accords, I could tell this was the accumulation of trauma and general-if you’ll excuse the phrase- ‘bullshit’.

I’ve watched this guy become ironically injured from from one of his own bombs, kidnapped, operated on while still awake, tortured while still recovering from said injury, have a magnet installed in his chest and then watch his fellow captive die as they tried to escape-

All within the first 45 minutes of the first Iron Man film! That’s not including being betrayed by his trusted business partner who had arranged for his kidnapping and murder in the first place.

Iron Man 2 had Tony confronting his death via palladium poisoning, leading him down a reckless path that causes his world to collapse around him. Despite his actions, it’s not until Iron Man 3 that we witness Tony truly falling apart. The events of Avengers really knocked it out of him. Nightmares, onset insomnia, strange eating patterns and nasty anxiety attacks follow his selfless nuke-disposal act. Yes, the other Avengers have suffered greatly in their own way, but while Tony may have incomparable intelligence, his mind is becoming more and more incapable of dealing with his hero lifestyle.

What really bothers me is the lack of concern shown from anyone aside from Pepper, Rhodey and that kid from the third film. This dangerous type of hero-complex should be setting off alarm bells everywhere and yet, when Tony was having grandiose visions of wrapping the world in Iron bubble wrap or standing up for his belief in the Accords, not a single person caught on that these ideas and feelings was coming from someone who was at risk of falling apart at any second. And if they actually had but didn’t act on it, the events of Ultron and Civil War are on their heads just as much as Tony’s.

Tony is still as full of wit and genius as he has ever been, but it comes at the cost of mentally building up walls to conceal matters that have caused personal damage. My heart broke at the end of Civil War when he finally discovered what occurred during the events of his parent’s death. Tony snapped. Was it reasonable to attack Bucky when he knew perfectly well the latter was brainwashed? Of course not, but at the same time, anyone who says that Cap had the right to keep such awful information from his colleague and friend is kidding themselves.

Is this the face of someone taking devastating news under stride with a healthy mindset?

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There’s no mistaking that Tony would have been hellbent on capturing Bucky if Cap had decided to tell him upfront, but despite his stubbornness, Tony isn’t unreasonable. In more relaxed circumstances, I believe Tony would have been furious at first, make moves to capture and destroy Bucky, but with persuasion (and perhaps a knock to the head), there would be calmness after the storm of emotions. Tensions would run high and it’s more than likely Tony would still confront Bucky about it. However, would Tony attack him with the same viciousness as he did in Civil War?

No. Absolutely not.

Tony has proven himself to be a danger to himself and others. The people around him recognise this and yet they do absolutely nothing but point fingers at him and blame him for creating problems that could have been prevented if they had helped him realise his mental health was getting in the way of his rationality. His joking around and constant building of Iron Man suits are defence mechanisms- a clear facade. Why is that so hard to decipher?

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I’ve given up on the other Avengers and my hopes now lie in Peter Parker’s entrance into the MCU. As Spider-Man joins Iron Man for Infinity War (and perhaps beyond?), what I’m hoping to see is Peter using his fresh eyes and sweet nature to break through Tony’s defences and encourage him to, at the very least, open up. The two have a lot in common. Both are intelligent, lost their parents and relatives to devastating events and came across their hero-personas through circumstances that were beyond their control.

Tony struggles to connect with other adults, but as we’ve seen with Harley and then Peter, he is reluctantly good with the younger generations. His appearance in Spider-Man: Homecoming was refreshing. Seeing him play father-figure to the budding hero was startling at first, then wound up making a lot of sense. Like I just said, Tony and Peter are similar were it counts and I wouldn’t be surprised if Tony considers Peter to be someone he could lead away from himself. Someone Tony can live through by encouraging a far more noble and sensible path.

This clip below from Homecoming is essential to my argument. Tony is trying so hard to get into Peter’s head that his actions have real consequences. The mistakes Tony made simply cannot be repeated by someone so young. Tony is not a role model, he is a living tale of caution that should be heeded at all costs.

Tony understands this and this is what gives me hope that taking up a surrogate-father role could benefit him in the long run.

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There is a lot of potential here to bring Tony’s character arc onto a far brighter path and I sincerely hope this is the type of direction the MCU will take him before Robert Downey Jr’s final contract runs out.

I’ve always been partial to characters that are more flawed than perfect. Tony appeals to me beyond anyone else in the MCU because he is the most human of them all. He has no biological enhancements to keep him from physical harm, no inherited will of steel to prevent him from falling within himself. The mistakes he makes can’t be delegated to others to solve, he must deal with it himself and then try to do better the next time. It’s not often that a genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist can be so relatable, is it?

Say what you want about him. Tony deserves better. Far better than the treatment he’s been receiving from those he once trusted the most.

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Late Night Nonsense: ‘What the F***?’ on The Muppet Show

It’s another one of those nights where I felt like posting something, but have a bad case of writers block. So instead of a post that (I’d like to think) is thought-provoking, here’s some super-screwed up Muppet Show moments that always leave me stumped for words!

This one in particular always makes me go, “OH GOD, JIM AND JERRY, WHY HATH THOU FORSAKEN US?

Rizzo the Rat: Radical Rodent

I never thought I’d ever be so anxious to see a rat again as I do Rizzo. He and I have had a very strange relationship. There are times where I’ve found him to be as annoying as Piggy, but if he’s not there, it feels like there is something very much missing. I generally find characters that fulfil Rizzo’s archetype to be intolerable, which makes my connection to him even stronger because I’ve been able to overcome all that in order to observe our similarities.

To me, Rizzo is the Muppet equivalent of that guy we all know who suffers from small-man syndrome in a very big world. Always upfront with everyone they come across, very snarky, very loud for someone their size, but at the end of the day, when confronted, they would much rather avoid the conflict. What I enjoy about Rizzo is that he more often than not breaks the mould with his open heart and loyalty to those who care about him. I’m quite happy to overlook his scheming and rather…ahem…ratty exploits with his family and other Muppets because I know he’ll always make the right choice in the end.

Tonight, I’m going to keep things fairly simple and share with you some of my favourite rodent-centric moments. I do apologise for not keeping up my usual posting rate this past week (that’s what happens when your birthday comes around!), so hopefully this will keep you entertained for the time being.

This is one of the only redeeming moments of Muppets from Space for me. The delivery of his lines along the timing of Rizzo being pummelled in the face with the boxing glove cracks me up every single time. I can relate to this kind of scenario. You go into something, believing that you’re too intelligent to fall for any tricks, only to discover that not only are you ill-prepared, but you’re going to get a decent ass-whooping for being so. Rizzo’s paranoia that second time around is 100% accurate. Doesn’t mean it stops him from making the same mistake!

It’s less than two minutes long, but this clip demonstrates everything I love about Rizzo. He clearly dragged Rowlf out there as part of a scheme to make a video that will upstage Tyson (let’s face it, Rowlf can talk and he is far more adorable), but gets distracted by food because…well…..pizza. Rizzo ends up completely missing the moment he had set-up to film, but that doesn’t matter because his friend just hurt himself. He immediately forgets everything else and runs to Rowlf’s aid. Even if he is a bit sketchy, you can’t fault the rat as a friend.

As a side note, I love how this clip was shot and I really wish the Muppets would do more of it. Not only is it cheap, it’s very inclusive and personal too. 

Is it bad that I wish Steve Whitmire had shot this at 2 o’clock in the morning while drunk off his ass? It just seems like something an intoxicated puppeteer would do.

This isn’t the full clip, but it’s still worth showing here. I really don’t have much to say about it other than I loved hearing the story from James Bobin about Steve sending it to him in mock protest. Rizzo really had taken a backseat during that time-period, so it was a relief to see him get some attention in the 2015 show. The clip itself is amusing and adds a lot of meta-humour to Muppet-lore with Rizzo pointing out that his character has been ignored.

Rizzo-bashing is best bashing.

I love this moment as much as the next Muppet fan, but I’m mostly adding this to the list as to not get a heap of flack for ignoring it. You can bet that when I watch Muppet Christmas Carol in December, I’ll be quoting it every 5 seconds until someone gets me to shut up.

I added this song to a previous list and it certainly deserves to be added to another. One talent that Rizzo shares with my beloved Wembley Fraggle is his fantastic scatting abilities and it’s a shame Steve didn’t get another chance like this to show it off (nor with any of his other characters). The scene is just….fun. ‘Rat Scat’ just adds to the playfulness of the happenings on screen. Who cares if it’s just there to show off some creative puppetry? It’s world-building off-set to the rhythmic ramblings of a radical rodent.

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Gah! I swear there was a clip of this on YouTube not too long ago, but I can’t find it!

If you haven’t seen this episode of The Muppet Show, Rizzo and the other rats decide to protest against doing a Pied Piper-themed skit with Jean-Pierre Rampal. If I remember correctly, it’s the children of the village that end up being musically exorcised from the village instead. This was obviously very early in Rizzo’s character development and he is just as much of a kid as Steve was.

(I swear if I ever find a clip of it, I will update this article ASAP!)

Crikey, how early in the 90’s was this? Kermit and Steve still had a lot of bonding to do!

There were better examples I could have used, but this will do because it explains my point better than I could write it out. Gonzo and Rizzo are only second to Kermit and Fozzie in terms of Muppet friendships for me. It was such a natural progression for these two characters to cover for the Frog while he was recovering from the loss of his performer. The Steve/Dave dynamic had already been tested and proven with Wembley and Boober, so of course, the Weirdo and the Rodent were going to work out just fine.

Just watch as these two effortlessly bounce off each other in this clip. It’s exactly what you want when representing a real friendship. You’re slightly irritated with the other person, but you put up with them anyway because you have come to the conclusion that they are worth the effort. Rizzo and Gonzo get each other in ways that outsiders clearly don’t understand. Rizzo is constantly baffled by Gonzo’s strange exploits and may mock them, but he’ll never completely dismiss them, because it’s what he loves about his best friend. Plus, it makes life colourful for a guy that grew up in the grungy, dirty sewers.

Sure, Rizzo also has a strong bond with Pepe, but it’s Gonzo who gets Rizzo on a personal level. Personally, I think Gonzo sees Rizzo as someone he can call his own. Like I said at the beginning of this post, the rat is a small guy in a big world. Gonzo is the only Whatever he knows, so he understands how it feels to be isolated from the people around you. By being friends, they compliment each other and make the other feel less estranged.

It’s actually a sweet thought to consider.

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Whoever has been chosen to take over Rizzo as of 2017 had better tread carefully because one slip-up could mean the end of our beloved rat as we know it. I may no longer feel anger at the current Muppet Performer situation, but I would be lying if I said that I am okay with someone picking Rizzo up. It’s going to be extremely painful so see him return, even more so than Kermit. If he has the wrong voice, if his body language isn’t as fluid, even if he loses the slightest bit of sarcasm, Rizzo the Rat will cease to exist.

He’s not like Piggy who was created from a joke, nor is he like Fozzie, who’s conception was based on the need to give Kermit a sidekick. His origins came straight from his creator. Steve wasn’t the user of a source for the character, he was the source and remains to this day. Rizzo’s backstory, wants and needs, dreams and aspirations, remain with him. Can a new performer pick all of that up and use it properly? Only time will tell.

You can re-tell a joke, but you can’t re-tell Steve. Simple as that.

Safe Zones in the Early Morning

It’s currently 1 AM and my insomnia is gotten to me once again, leaving me to stew in a pit of thoughts I’d much prefer to crawl out of, but here we are.

Let’s talk about my current subject of obsession: Safe Zones.

I certainly have heaps of them: The Muppets, Fraggle Rock, The Dark Crystal, Dreamworks Dragons, My Little Pony: FiM, Harry Potter….I seem to be partial to the fantasy and just plain silly forms of entertainment Jim Henson and the Western world has to offer.

It’s a bit odd (and perhaps a little sad) that this particular list belongs to an adult woman who will be turning 21 on Wednesday. I’ve seen so many people, whether on Facebook or elsewhere, that have presented their transition into adulthood by ridding themselves of anything and everything childish. Glancing around my room now, there’s a well-used Kermit the Frog shoulder bag hanging to my right, a big toy horse in front of me and my Muppet collection to my left. If someone who didn’t know me were to take a look at this room, they would guess it belonged to an 8 year-old girl.

The funny thing is, I didn’t start accumulating any of this until I was 16. My room was filled with Beanie Kids and toy horses before being replaced with books, DVDs and Muppet merchandise. My room hasn’t changed personality, just general filler. The only ‘adult’ factor of this small space is the university related stuff and my M*A*S*H box set. Even then, the box set of my all-time favourite show has an accompanying plush toy dog. It’s an odd looking thing and I’ve affectionately dubbed it “Radar” since it reminds me so much of Gary Burghoff.

I suppose my room is what you could call my “ultimate safe zone”, as I’m clearly surrounded by the things that help me to escape and defend myself from reality when it becomes a little too much to bear. Some people drink or take drugs, others work out their frustrations at the gym-

Me? I fangirl over things and then write about it…Or in today’s case, write about fangirling…It really does come full circle when you really think about it.

I remember not long after I joined the Muppet fandom, I was at school and during lunchtime, a girl who had been nasty to me in the past came up to try and have another go. I was already stronger in spirit at that point then I had been in the past, but I was still a very lost 17 year-old with body-issues the size of elephants. Which is why, despite this particular day’s attempts to put me down about my weight and unsightly face, my arch enemy was surprised to come face-to-face with “Miss Marni”.

“You’re just jealous because you’re not me,” I had boldly snapped back, “Not everyone can be this awesome. I feel sorry for you.”

Before she could retort, I was already striding away with as much sass as my pasty white behind could muster (which honestly wasn’t much). Once I was out of her sight, I immediately took pause with what was probably a stunned expression. Where on earth did that come from? I couldn’t believe my own nerve. Sassing people wasn’t my strong suit at that point in my life.

But then it hit me…..It was the Pig.

That wasn’t me doing the talking during that little encounter. It was Miss Piggy in all of her hammy glory, who seemed to have gotten under my skin even though she was my least favourite Muppet. Her determination to be known as the most fabulous of beings had rubbed off on me and I used her when I needed her the most. Piggy still doesn’t even crack my Top 50 Muppets, but you know what? After all of the times, she’s helped me stand up to people and reassured me I’m actually worth something, I think I owe the pig more than just a few boxes of chocolate.

Another means of escape from reality took me completely by surprise late least year. I watch a heck of a lot of YouTube and one channel I’m subscribed to is run by a guy named Gabe, who also goes by the name of Black Gryph0n. Aside from being an amazing singer and voice talent (he voiced Becky in Finding Dory), Gabe is a huge personality in the Brony community. I ended up watching a few of his My Little Pony-related videos and it intrigued me enough to find the first episode of the show and give it a watch.

Three weeks later, I was caught up with the entire series and was eagerly awaiting the next season as well as the movie that came out this month.

At first I was like, “Really Marni? My Little Pony? Aren’t you already pushing it with Sesame Street?” But you know what? Bugger it. I honestly stopped caring whether or not people knew I watched kids programming on a regular basis. I’m certainly not the only one doing it and I’m not hurting anyone by doing it. I find MLP to be more clever and entertaining then more than half of the adult programmes on prime time these days anyway.

Not to mention that the Brony community is hugely creative and I love immersing myself in the fan art and videos that they’ve created over the years. Can you believe that this was made by fans purely out of their love for the show? It’s beautiful.

I suppose everyone has a different definition of ‘safe zone’. For me, it’s a place where I can just be myself and show off some of my own creativity through my writing, which is why fandoms are my personal go-to. Who cares if it’s a little childish? There are far worse things to be into then puppets, dragons, wizards and pastel-coloured horses, isn’t there?

I’d love to know what you consider to be your ‘escape zone’. Comment below and let me know!

So What’s Next?

Well, after all of…..THIS! I’ve taken the time to relax and ease any residual anger from the situation out of my body. At some point during this month, it will have been exactly a year since Steve Whitmire got the unceremonious shove from the Muppets, but I’m not going to make a big deal out of it for a couple of reasons:

A) Steve has confirmed that he reads my posts and I’m sure the ‘anniversary’ isn’t something he’ll want to be reminded of.

B) To keep carrying on about it would just be a moot point.

And C) I have my own selfish reasons for not wanting to think about it this month. The main one being that it’s my 21st birthday Wednesday after next. I remember the feeling of guilt in the pit of my stomach when I realised that while I was stuffing my mouth with cake last year, Steve was probably already going through the worst time of his life.

But hey, that’s all water under the bridge now. There’s not much I can do for Steve’s career other than to defend his position, and I’m still up on my soapbox preaching his Muppet philosophy. Like I said previously, I’m not churning out scathing, hard-headed articles anymore, mostly out of respect for the Muppet Performers who are still there doing their best. My beef is with the Muppets Studio executives, just as it should be.

Brushing the Muppets aside for a moment, I just experienced an absolutely horrid weekend, leading me to question whether or not my living situation needs to drastically change soon. Writing always helps to clear my head, so I thought I’d take one of my favourite subjects (though he obviously means a lot more to me than that) and have some fun coming up with suggestions for what Steve could do next.

Please bear in mind that these are just silly ideas and I don’t actually expect Steve to do them. While I would love for him to do some of these things, it’s all harmless speculation and brainstorming.

The Rocky Horror Puppet Show:

A puppet adaptation of an already silly-on-purpose musical, lorded over by Steve, would be nothing less than epic. Steve’s evidently a huge fan, so why not combine his expertise with his love for the show? He’s even close acquaintances with Rocky’s creator, Richard O’Brien, so finding a way to pitch the project wouldn’t be difficult.   I can almost imagine it: mostly done Avenue Q-style, but with excellent bunraku ( please tell me that’s what it’s called…) puppetry thrown in as well for numbers like ‘Sweet Transvestite’. That’s referring to a stage adaptation, of course. A feature film would be less likely, but still a heap of fun!

Plus, it would be awesome to watch Steve take on Riff Raff, perhaps even Frank N Furter!

A Book?

This is an idea that has actually been thrown around and suggested directly to Steve ever since he started Muppet Pundit and the high quality of his writing become obvious.

When I suggest that Steve should take pen to paper, I’m not thinking of him going down the ‘here’s a 700-page rant about why Disney’s destroying the Muppets’ route. I’m thinking more of the ‘my career has been pretty goddamn epic and here’s some cool-ass stories’ or ‘if you want to be a great puppeteer with strong characters, here’s how to do it’ kind of thing. Heck, even a straight out autobiography would be great, but of course, that would depend on how open he’d want to be about his personal life.

Lectures/Workshops:

Steve’s already done this a couple of times before, but now would be a great time to take it on the road, perhaps even internationally. There are hundreds of puppeteers out there that would kill for the chance to learn from someone who worked closely with the great Jim Henson, especially someone who has proven to have matched up to Jim’s puppetry talents.

Just to speak from a personal stance, if I were to attend a puppetry workshop held by Steve, it would be a huge pleasure and I’d give 100% effort, but I’d be even more interested in the lecture that would accompany it. Especially, if that lecture was along the lines of the ‘Sentient Puppet’ talk he did back in 2010. Reading through notes taken from that talk, there’s a lot that could be applied to writing characters for novels or TV shows and films (but that discussion is for another article).

Having Steve join the very few monitor-puppetry masters, who get out there and strive to educate the masses would only benefit the art form in the long run.

An Album:

Take a listen to this. I dare you to look me in the eye and tell me that you wouldn’t be able to listen to several tracks featuring that voice.

I love music with all my heart, but I must admit I’m not the best at determining what type of voice would suit what type of genre. This is the only sample of Steve’s natural singing voice I’m aware of and the most I can say is that it seems to lend itself to classic rock and maybe a ballad or two. With his character work, Steve’s done a huge variety of different styles, so he could do anything he wants, really. I’m just saying, it’s a shame we never got Kermit’s rendition of ‘I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing.

Jerry Nelson’s ‘Truro Daydreams’ remains one of my favourite albums because it’s so genuine to who Jerry was. I have a feeling Steve would wind up producing the same type of gravitas through his own songs.

YouTube/Social Media:

This is probably the least likely out of any of my ideas, but I’m bringing it up anyway due to it’s possibilities. Steve starting up his own YouTube channel would be a great little creative outlet, providing a space for him to display snippets of his personal creativity, whether it’s a puppet-skit or something else entirely. Creators on the platform often use it as a means of getting immediate feedback while working on bigger projects. Just to use my Rocky Horror suggestion, say, if Steve wanted a general consensus on how excited people were about the project, he could release teasers containing footage from rehearsals or something along those lines.

As for social media, I’d never expect Steve to be tweeting every 10 minutes, or constantly posting pictures on Instagram, but it would be hugely beneficial if he wanted to promote independent projects. Simply posting on Muppet Pundit has earned him more attention over the past few months, more people are aware of his name and what he has contributed over the years. A stronger online presence can have it’s drawbacks, but it’s the quickest and most efficient way of spreading things around.

TV Shows and Feature Films:

I was fairly close to ignoring this prospect due to…well…certain controversies, but then again, I don’t see why the option would be closed off to Steve. He’s a world class performer and just because Disney, Henson and Sesame can’t/ don’t (want to) have anything to do with him doesn’t mean other companies can’t pick Steve up for something. The problem is, puppetry really isn’t that prevalent in the film industry unless a company specialises in it.

Lucas Film is bringing back puppetry and special eff-…..Ah, crap. That’s Disney again, isn’t it?

You never know, maybe one day Warner Bros will decide to do a film starring puppets that passive-aggressively mocks the Muppets and Steve could have a field day trolling the Disney executives.

If someone else doesn’t come up with the idea, it would be my pleasure to put a script together to avenge my favourite Muppet Performer.

In the end…. 

There’s actually a question that has been brought up a few times by a variety of different people: What exactly does one do with their life after being kicked out from their dream job and seemingly becoming shut off from film companies they have worked for previously?

I didn’t have a definite answer in regards to Steve, but these were just a few small ideas that have been stirring in the back of my mind for the past few months. I’ve said this before, but no matter what Steve does next, those who remain his fans despite all of this years chaos will support his decisions in the long run.

If there’s anything I can be definite of, it’s that….