It was with a strong sense of national pride that I watched New Zealander Bret McKenzie collect an Oscar this week. Best known for the 2007 Grammy that he and fellow Kiwi Jemaine Clement earned for their Flight of the Concords antics; this time the award is for his song-writing talent in the recently released Muppet movie. I haven’t seen the movie in its entirety, but there was a grin of self-recognition as I hummed along to the chorus line of the Oscar-winning song – Man or Muppet.
In Bret’s words: “Everyone has had a time in their life when they’ve thought, ‘Am I a man or a Muppet?.’ I think it connects on multiple levels.”
Perhaps not the deepest levels, but multiple levels nonetheless!
Listening to Bret’s acceptance speech (which you can do here) it was one of the thank-you’s that most got my attention. Among others, he thanked his wife Hannah, and then his parents “…for never telling me to get a real job.”
It’s not the first time I have heard that said (usually only half-in-jest by a hard-working entertainer, musician or sportsperson.) But perhaps because I am going to be a parent myself this year, it’s the first time I have fully realised the crucial and often difficult role that parents and other close friends and role models play in helping us navigate our way through life. How do you prepare someone for the “real world” (whatever that means) while leaving room for them to “follow their dreams” (whatever that means)…?
And if the “real world” needs Muppet songs (and I’m happily convinced that it does) then how much more complex does that make our task?! Especially when, for every Bret McKenzie there are dozens of very-much-less-talented teens who want to do what he does, not for reasons of genuine calling or giftedness…but out of an infatuation with celebrity and wealth.
On the other hand, perhaps we are sometimes too easily tempted to equate the “real world” with men (and women)…and writing the “dreamers” off as muppets.
I’m glad that this week Bret McKenzie reminded me that humour plays a vital role in doing life well. And I’m glad that his parents had the wisdom to see talent where others might have missed it. When the time comes, for my children and even in my own life, I hope that I will have the wisdom to do the same.
Feel free to hum along to the Oscar-winning song below – and leave a comment if you have been similarly encouraged by a family member, mentor, or story of a “dreamer”…