Boober Fraggle and The River of Life

Did you miss me?

Sorry I haven’t been posting as frequently lately, but I honestly don’t see the point in posting when I really have nothing to talk about. It was just one of those weeks where my enthusiasm for writing went straight down the drain.

But hey, I’m bouncing back with some adoration of the man that is Dave Goelz in all of his glorious Dave Goelz-ness! Have I mentioned yet that Boober Fraggle is my favourite of all of Dave’s characters? If I have, I honestly can’t remember and I apologise if I happen to be repeating myself….yet again.

Tonight, I thought I’d take a look at my favourite Goelz performance in the Fraggle Rock episode ‘The River of Life’. This episode remains in my Top 5 and for a very good reason. While all of the episodes connect together in the single narrative of the importance of tolerance and co-existing peacefully, there are some that simply stand out because they take it a step further.

Before I dive into it, I’m going to give a quick shout-out to Steve Whitmire for his performance of Sprocket in this episode. Boober takes the cake, but Sprocket also plays a huge role and should be commended on his character growth as he and Boober unknowingly work together to save the Fraggles. Steve did an awesome job getting across Sprocket’s anguish through body language and an array of dog noises. Kudos, Steve!

Okay, so, as usual, we start the episode in the workshop, finding Sprocket fanning himself until Doc comes barreling in with some exciting news. Apparently there’s a guy that will pay Doc $100,000 if he allows the guy’s company to pour industrial waste into the limestone caves beneath the workshop. Sprocket had perked up at the thought of the money, but immediately panics when he realises where the waste would go- to the Fraggles! Sprocket protests the signing of a contract, but Doc assures him that these people are professionals and they have already begun to test the process. Horrified, Sprocket makes his way over to the Fraggle Hole and peers in, worried for his oddball friends.

Down at Fraggle Rock, we join Boober on his way to ‘anting’, a spectator event that Red and Mokey don’t seem to keen on. They’re on their way to the swimming pool in the Great Hall. Boober attempts to explain his enthusiasm, but is cut short when he smells something strange, an odour undetectable for the two female fuzzballs. Boober heads off to find the source.

Meanwhile in the Gorg’s Garden, Junior is watering his beloved radishes just as Ma and Pa decided to go for a ‘frolic in the creek’. Junior wants to go, but is forced to stay and continue his chores. When Junior goes back to his radishes and sprinkles more water over them, the radishes suddenly go rotten and shrivel, causing Junior to fall into dismay and confusion.

With that scene done, we have our set-up for the interconnection. Outer-Space is the cause of the problem and Fraggle Rock and the Gorg’s Garden pay the price for Doc’s lack of knowledge about the world beyond the Fraggle Hole. Water of course is the interconnecting factor that drives the story forward.

Water also happens to be missing from the water hole in the Great Hall, much to the disappointment of the Fraggles who just want to beat the heatwave. Uncle Travelling Matt, not one to give up so easily, goads the youngsters into filling the pool back up with water from Water-Wheel Cavern. With a song, that’s exactly what they do. Boober is still on the case of the strange scent, coming to the horrid conclusion that the water is polluted when he finds the source. But it’s too late! The Fraggles are already swimming!

Back in the workshop, Doc, completely oblivious to the fact that his tie has been done up backwards (not important to the plot, but I felt the need to mention it anyway because it’s funny), seems pleased with the progress of the tests. At first, he is confused by Sprocket’s protesting, claiming he’d never do anything to hurt the environment, but then realises that Sprocket is once again trying to convince him that there is life behind the wall. Exasperated, Doc gives Sprocket an ultimatum: if he can prove the Fraggles’ existence, Doc won’t sign the contract. Sprocket immediately runs to the Hole and tries his best to capture the Rock’s attention.

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Sprocket does his best to save his Fraggle friends by stalling Doc’s signing of the contract.

Seriously Sprocket, there’s a Fraggle Hole you can fit through down at the park near your house! Can’t you just go there and drag one of them out by their tail?

Oh, hang on, that wouldn’t work anyway, Doc hasn’t had his Magic Moment yet.

(Don’t worry, I’ll be talking about the Magic Moments in my next post, you’ll get the context soon!)

I really want to insert here, my love for Sprocket throughout this whole episode as it shows off his character growth. No more is the dog that would try to capture Gobo; the Fraggles are his friends! They’ve adventured together, played together and reached a common understanding that they want to get to know more about each other’s worlds.

Good boy! Have a dog treat on the house!

While Sprocket’s barking echoes through the caverns unheard, four of the Fraggle Five begin to suffer from the affects of the pollution, much in the same way that marine life suffers when there is an oil spill from a cargo ship. Throat Rot renders them hoarse and it’s not long before Wembley and Red begin to crumble under their own weight. This is not a good situation for anyone and Boober is panicking. I can relate to his anguish over suddenly having a huge amount of responsibility on one’s shoulders. Boober is a character of many anxieties and this is certainly not a situation you want to put a hypochondriac introvert in. At the very least, Gobo instructs Boober to visit The Trash Heap for answers, so at least the squat Fraggle has a place to start.

Unfortunately for Boober (and me as the anxious audience), The Trash Heap seems to know that this is one of the more significant episodes and decides to be extra sassy just for shits and giggles. The conversation (after watching the Gorg’s try to curb a new itch and lay blame on the Fraggles) metaphorically leads to the idea of Boober confronting Outer Space. “Find the source,” cries Marjorie in all of her trashy glory, but that’s far easier said then done for our little blue hero.

On his way back to the Rock, Junior snatches Boober up and the Gorgs proceed to lay threats upon the already shaken Fraggle. Luckily, Boober decides to introduce them to the concept of the Silly Creatures and reveals the truth. Pa suggests to invade Outer Space, but it’s quickly down turned due to Pa being proportionally-challenged. So it’s back to Boober to save the day which he verbally resents, causing Pa to state the painful truth

“I’ll make it country-simple, you Fur-ball! If you don’t get the message across to these jokers, you might as well kiss your hat good-bye! Because you know what?” snarls Pa.

“What?” whimpers Boober.

“Without clean water, we ARE ALL…GOING TO DIE!”

There you have it, ladies and gentleman! That classic, endearing, ‘we know that you’re kids, but fuck you, you’re gonna learn about how shit reality really is’ Fraggle Rock charm we all know and love!

At this point, Boober is ready to crap himself and Dave Goelz begins to outdo himself performance-wise. Running to Gobo and the others for help, Boober sees just how badly they’ve deteriorated since he last saw them and it could not be more clear that things are screwed unless he does something. So he does do something…..he crams himself under a rock, only to be telepathically ‘tut-tutted’ by The Trash Heap, who once again reminds him how much is at stake (because apparently all of his friends dying wasn’t a clear enough sign as far as she is concerned). Boober resigns himself to the idea of begging and grovelling to the Silly Creatures.

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The Fraggles have Throat Rot!

Speaking of which, our other hero is getting plenty of practice in as Sprocket whimpers and whines, preaching his anguish to Doc. “Don’t sign the contract!” he tries to say. Doc is severely conflicted: Sprocket hasn’t been able to prove the existence of lifeforms down in the caves, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any at all. The poor man wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he knew he had harmed another being…but…but the money…..Doc decides to take a walk before he makes a final decision.

Now at the other side of the Fraggle Hole, Boober is ready to make his plea and my god this scene makes me cry every time! Easily the best moment of Dave’s career as far as I’m concerned. Everything about it is stunningly emotional, from Boober’s submissive body language, to the meek and terrified intonation of his voice, it really does hit me right in the feels.

“Hello? Sir…or Madam….It’s Boober Fraggle here. One of the insignificant creatures who lives down here in the caves? I’ve come to beg and grovel…”

Then Boober gets down on his knees in one of the most poignant shots of the entire series.

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The Plea for Fraggle Rock: Dave Goelz’s most emotional performance on the show.

“On behalf of the Fraggles and the Gorg’s, I beg you to stop contaminating our water. I’m on my knees begging for that right now. Okay? Oh please, please stop poisoning us! We’re just helpless little creatures who mean you no harm….We don’t wanna die…I’ve tried to think about why you want to hurt us, but it doesn’t make any sense…We’ve never done anything to you, have we? Taken anything from you?”

With that last question hanging in the air, Boober has a realisation and runs off to ‘rectify the problem’, but for a moment, I just want to sit back and revel in that incredible speech that Dave just takes and tears your heart apart with. It says so much about who Boober is: as far as he is concerned, he is a tiny speck in the bigger picture, but there is a part of him that still hopes that he and his fellow Fraggles can matter. In this moment, he let’s go of everything and just appeals to common decency. There’s no reluctance in his voice when he includes the Gorg’s: they matter too at the end of the day. The first time I ever watched this series, I liked Boober before this episode, but this scene earned him a special spot in my heart.

There’s a metaphor in there somewhere that Boober’s speech rings out into an empty room, but I’m far too tired to dwell upon it tonight. The next scene has Doc and Sprocket return to the workshop after their walk. Doc’s mind is made up- he’s signing the contract! Sprocket attempts one last time to convince him to turn the other cheek, but Doc proceeds to justify his decision….only to find a pile of Uncle Matt’s postcards sitting in the Hole.

Boober thought that the Silly Creatures were mad because Gobo kept sneaking in and ‘stealing’ the cards, so the logical thing to do is give them back. This is a huge breakthrough for Doc- finally some evidence supporting Sprocket’s “theory”! The dog in question is both stunned and elated.

Back in the Rock, an anxious Boober sings the correctly named ‘It Makes You Cry’ because it makes me blubber every goddamn time, only for something amazing to happen….Clean water is dripping from the cavern walls! He runs off to find his friends just as Doc informs Sprocket that he turned the waste disposal company away. He waved the contract and the money bye-bye because the new evidence of life beyond the Hole was too important to ignore.

Sprocket is overjoyed (and so am I!). Doc finally contemplates who could be living back there and ordered for the caverns to be flushed out with clean water. It’s a miracle! The Fraggles recover from their illness, the Gorg’s radishes are restored to their full-health and Sprocket gives the postcards back, just happy that the Fraggles seemed to have gotten his warning barks from earlier.

And that ladies and gentleman, was ‘The River of Life’, a PSA for the environment and the conclusion of Boober Fraggle’s character arc!

Boober would never have done what he did in this episode during Season 1. Boober never outgrew his anxieties, but he did learn to deal with them as he went. His appreciation and love for his friends will overtake his fears when there is a need for it and it’s a shame there’s not a lot of characters like him on television these days. Kids who are like I was back then could definitely benefit from Boober’s influence.

As I mentioned earlier, I intend to discuss how episodes like this play into the bigger picture during my next post. I should probably stop here before I fall asleep, but I promise you I don’t intend to stray for as long as I did this time.

See you guys soon!

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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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