i just watched “being elmo: a puppeteer’s journey” on netflix instant.
it’s about kevin clash, a black man from baltimore who started making puppets at age 10 when he fell in love with the magic of jim henson. it’s so beautiful.
apparently, elmo started out with a caveman voice, and when his original puppeteer became frustrated with the character, he gave elmo to kevin to see if he could make anything of him. when asking jim henson for advice, jim said that every character has a hook. fozzie bear is like a vaudeville comedian, and miss piggy is like a truck driver’s attitude with a woman’s touch.
kevin went home to baltimore and his family to see if he could find inspiration for elmo. and he did. he talked about growing up a poor black boy in the inner-city with a family who could not afford to take him to disney world. he described being bullied in high school for loving the magic of puppets, and he examined what he and his family did not have, but more importantly, what they did.
when he returned, people asked what elmo’s “hook” was. kevin said, “well, elmo just loves you.”
so elmo became a character who liked to hug and kiss everyone, and a character who was happy when the children were happy, but most of all, elmo became a character about love. and that’s why elmo’s become a huge success and a cultural phenomenon.
i don’t know if i can articulate all the ways this documentary moved me, as a lover of love, as a brown girl from the inner-city, as an escapist who stuck her nose in every fantasy medium growing up. i hope to put that much love into whatever work i am passionate about, and i hope to pursue it as hard as kevin clash did. if you have the time and the means, i strongly suggest watching “being elmo.”
It really is a wonderful documentary, I loved it.