Robert Mayer

Program / Project Manager (PMP), Choice Hotels International


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Does the lack of expression on the Muppets found on Sesame Street inhibit the transmission of ideas and morals that the show strives for?

The ability to properly convey a message is heavily based upon nonverbal cues. A puppet has a very limited ability to convey nonverbal cues. Does this make it harder for a child to understand the idea the Muppet is conveying compared to the same message conveyed by an human actor?

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    Jun 26 2012: Not at all. As I have shared before, the Muppets were my allies in raising my five kids, especially with social issues.
  • Jun 14 2012: Robert,

    You could of course ask the same question about TV use with children in general. Regardless of the actor being human or a puppet. The TV set is a rather non-human form of communicating, especially with small children. It stimulates the child in a rather visual /audio that is rather unnatural when one sees the way the "entire being" of the child needs to learn... as you mention "moral ideas". In fact, there are some schools of though that say it is down right damaging to the young child. There are hundreds of other subtle things going on between the child as watcher and the TV set as teacher or entertainer.
    I think puppets are a fantastic tool to teach children otherwise. I have used them a lot myself. But you have an interesting question anyway !
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    Jun 14 2012: I don't think so. A master puppeteer will compensate for the limited expression by the exaggeration of vocal intonation. I think one of the reasons that many ventriloquist puppets have workable facial features is simply because the range of intonation by the puppeteer is limited in striving for the illusion of not speaking. So the ventriloquist puppets facial movement conveys what the voice cannot. That's the brilliance of Jim Henson and Frank Oz and the muppets. Because the puppeteer is off camera, the full range of vocalization is available.

    In thinking about it, even when the character is limited in vocalizations such as in the Swedish Chef or Beaker or the Martian aliens, the puppeteers compensate for the lack of facial communication with increased physical communication. (I hope nobody asks the yip yip martian aliens for their papers).

    In case you haven't noticed, I am a HUGE muppet fan:)
  • Jun 14 2012: I never thought of it that way but it does make sense. When you watch Pixar movie you can see how much character emotions that are visible to the viewer make difference.
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      Jun 26 2012: I wonder then, Zendick, if that kind of presentation encourges us to notice more of the ways human beings communicate and thus to not only notice but to employ these techniques?
      • Jun 26 2012: Hi Debra, if I understand you correctly, do you think that seeing Muppets help us to appreciate the full communication we have with other human beings?

        I think I am not an expert in this area at all so I am not sure but you might be right =)