Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Pain-Liking Weirdos (Muppets)

(reposted due to code error)

I’m writing this article to honor one of my favorite childhood characters: Gonzo, of the Muppets. I’m a masochist. I like pain and always have, which along with general Asperger syndrome traits makes me kind of weird in relation to the general population. Despite his somewhat dubious portrayal, Gonzo was a fun and relatable character to me when I was younger because Gonzo likes painful things and is the overall embodiment of all that is weird.


Gonzo was created to be a weird character. He’s not instantly recognizable as a specific species, unlike some of his fellow Muppets, and is generally called a “whatever”. Much of his humor stems from the sheer bizarreness of some of his activities. He does a lot of crazy stuff and has some inane thought processes that lead him to do stupid things, but through the magic of puppets he never comes out any worse for it. He’s a joyful guy, and as I said he likes pain.

As part of his bizarre qualities, the writers decided to make him enjoy getting struck by cannonballs and other painful things that happen to him. For the great majority, pain is something that is always unpleasant, and I’m sure the writers viewed Gonzo’s enjoyment of painful things as something incongruous. Even with that in mind, I appreciated the character because as weird as he was he was a character I could relate to. I like painful things – funny Gonzo likes painful things.

I remember how I loved watching the scene in Muppet Treasure Island where, after an explosion throws Gonzo and Rizzo through a brick wall, Rizzo is groaning about it while Gonzo loved it. Rizzo then reacts like Gonzo is crazy, but to me it didn’t matter because Gonzo’s so fun-loving and it’s just in his nature to like painful things. Later in the movie, pirates put Gonzo on the rack to try to get information from him, but are dismayed when he starts exclaiming about how cool the torture device is because it makes him taller (“I could play in the NBA!”).

“This won’t work! He likes it!” shouts a pirate. How cool is that? Gonzo likes painful things and it’s like it’s his superpower. The good guys are helped because of one of his weird qualities, which I happen to also have. Well, not to that degree, but still.

Then the pirates decide to torture Rizzo instead, correctly assuming he responds to pain the normal way. Gonzo doesn’t really understand, though. He seems to think Rizzo’s in for a good time despite Rizzo’s begging the pirates not to touch him with a hot poker. Fortunately, Rizzo is saved in the nick of time when the good guys arrive.

Gonzo’s clearly not the brightest, but he’s portrayed as a good person in spite of all his weirdness. He cares about his fellow Muppets and he tries to be a good friend to Rizzo and the others. Although his love life is weird because he’s dating a chicken, who are anthropomorphized characters more animalistic than the others, he has a loving relationship with his chicken girlfriend Camilla. A character who likes painful things could easily be written as an antisocial individual (even something like the Count or Oscar the Grouch of Sesame Street), but they went the other way with Gonzo, which makes him easy to relate to.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying Gonzo is supposed to be a masochist. What he’s supposed to be is a weirdo. The problem is, there is an absence of real masochist characters in mainstream media, and when they are there it’s generally just for humor. I think it can be compared to the issues of having gay characters in the media, where straight characters have to be reinterpreted by gay people who want someone to relate to.

Even when they do write masochistic characters, they are never intended for kids. I’m sure most people would find the idea perverse. Kids are not supposed to be sexual in any fashion, something which I believe stems from Judeo-Christian notions of purity in virginity and how sexual corruption comes with age. Those aren’t good notions to have, though. Most kids are sexual to some extent; it’s just that they haven’t matured yet. Somehow, most of these people would have no trouble with young boys and girls having crushes on each other.

Masochism is seen as an especially bad manifestation of sexuality, like it’s just some weird fetish of weird people. Its association with pain that is considered to be always bad makes it seem darker and edgier than I think it really deserves. There’s plenty of theorizing out there that says that masochism is the result of childhood abuse, which I find rather offensive. It reminds me of the idea that anal rape causes homosexuality. Yeah, yeah. *rolls eyes*

I have always liked pain in one form or another. I consider it an innate part of my being. I think people in general should be respected and not deemed ill because of their differences. Differences are to be respected… and Gonzo is really different. Sure, everyone thinks he’s a nutcase, but he has a place with the other Muppets. One thing I like about Muppets from Space is that they show all the Muppets living together in one large house, each with their own daily routine. When Gonzo’s people (who turn out to be aliens) come to take him back home, he makes it explicit that his real home is with all his friends, different though they are (a sentiment also expressed by Big Bird in Follow That Bird, incidentally).

In conclusion, the character of Gonzo has been of great enjoyment to me for his professed like of painful things. As someone who likes pain it has been hard to find characters I can identify with, especially as a kid. People need to realize that a lot of kids aren’t just asexual until puberty, and should show them respect. Masochism should also be acknowledged as something like a sexual orientation that people can have from birth, rather than something evil that can only come from some trauma. That’s backward thinking, the kind of mentality responsible for all this frakin’ homophobia. In any case, I’m glad they made Gonzo the way they did, which gave me the closest thing to a favorably depicted masochistic protagonist for kids. I hope that there could be a real one in the future.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I want to hurt you.