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Volume 6, No. 1 - December, 1995  
Fozzie Logic
By R.J. Lambrose

ALTHOUGH THE BUENA VISTA Muppet Treasure Island hasn't opened yet, the script has already sent Hormel Foods rushing into federal court in Manhattan. Company attorneys charge that the film, which includes a wild boar puppet called Spa'am, infringes on Hormel's trademark on its widely sold (and widely respected) pork luncheon meat, Spam. More seriously still, Hormel alleges that the film character is a "noxious-appearing wild boar," and that Jim Henson Productions "has intentionally portrayed the Spa'am character to be evil in porcine form." Needless to say, Hormel's lawyers fairly bristle at plans to include the unsavory Spa'am in a McDonald's Happy Meal promotion.

Once the food fight dies down, it will be worth recalling that this is not the first time that the Muppets have turned out to have real-life namesakes. Kermit the Frog has his own story. Some fifty years ago, it seems, Jim Henson used to roam Mississippi's Deer Creek with his Leland Elementary School classmate Kermit Scott. It was a Huck-and-Tom friendship that both remembered long into adulthood. Henson went on to puppeteering fame, as we all know; his boyhood pal, however, went on to study philosophy. When Henson created the Muppets in 1954, he got the inspiration for Kermit the Frog from the bullfrogs he had heard by the side of Deer Creek--and the name from his erstwhile playmate. Scott, for his part, became a professor of philosophy at Purdue.

When asked by Lingua Franca what he thought of being immortalized as a frog, Scott replied: "I'm flattered. My grandchildren certainly like it a lot. They get a big kick out of it.... I can think of a lot worse things I could be associated with." Like what, for example? The law of the excluded middle?

In any case, Kermit the Philosopher is the real deal: This year, for instance, he published a monograph called Augustine: An Interpretation (Pauline Press). Sounds impressive, but one hopes that Kermit Scott will turn his inquiring mind to more meddlesome philosophical questions. Like: Why are there so many songs about rainbows? And is it easy being green?

R.J. Lambrose


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