Thursday, September 19, 2013

"Fraggle Rock" Month - Season 2, Episode 14: "The Secret of Convincing John"

Identity continues to be a major theme in this season.  This episode is one of my favorites that confronts that theme, since it finally gives me a reason to talk about Wembly.  Revisiting "Fraggle Rock" this time made him bar none my favorite character in the series.

Let me put it this way: Red is the character I tell people I identify with the most, Wembly is the character I actually identify with the most.  In some respects, he feels almost like a prototype version of Dory from "Finding Nemo"; the cute, funny comic relief character with a funny psychological quirk -- that, it turns out, actually causes the character a lot of personal grief and their friends a great deal of annoyance.  All the while, they're terrified of losing their friends, since their friends are the only thing keeping them stable enough to function.  Wembly is a fantastic character because we see both how he'd be almost impossible to live with and why the other Fraggles choose to do so; he's still so endearing, you love the little guy to pieces.

In the beginning of this episode, a moment of indecisiveness on Wembly's part almost causes a disaster and he's wracked with guilt afterwards.  He seeks the extreme psychological counsel of Convincing John to, err, convince the indecisiveness away.  Convincing John is Jim Henson's other signature character on "Fraggle Rock" and I think he only appears two or three times in the whole series.  But oh man, what a fabulous character!  Half pop-psychologist, half televangelist, and all crazy-awesome.

Now the way this kind of story usually goes (hey, there, "Wuzzles"), the character who has been changed is either miserable and wishes to go back to normal, or they gradually turn back to normal because of "Status Quo is God" reasons.  "Fraggle Rock" being "Fraggle Rock", they're going to take this in a direction we don't usually get to see.  This time, it's Wembly's friends who miss the old Wembly.  Meanwhile, Wembly doesn't want to change back, but he doesn't realize that decisiveness has turned him obnoxious.  Worse, he may bring his friends into even more danger than he would have as a neurotic if he stays this way.  Of course, it turns out that Convincing John is pathologically indecisive too...

One of the greatest things about "Fraggle Rock" is how the characters all have some pretty deep flaws, but they're all realistic flaws.  Gobo is brave and kind, and also arrogant when he's not being Emo.  Red is bold and sensitive, and she's also stubborn and kind of a brat.  Boober is reliable but a black hole of fun, Mokey is compassionate but self-important, Wembly is loyal but annoying, and Traveling Matt is courageous but insufferably condescending.  And we love them all the same.  They're our sisters and brothers under the feathers and felt.


Grant said...

Dave Goelz described Boober as being obsessive compulsive, but as an actual OCD sufferer I find Wembley a much more accurate depiction of the disorder.

And this episode is a great example. Near the beginning, when he's paralyzed with indecision over which side of his bed to get out on, and he plaintively cries, "Well once I get this sorted out, I can decide what to do next!" Oh my god, I know that EXACT feeling. (Tears in my eyes as I'm typing this.)

And Convincing John's "choose-right uptight loser blues" song is pretty much the OCD theme song.

Trish said...

What's up, fellow OCD sufferer. It took a while for me to think about this, but here at the end of the series, I think Boober and Wembly represent two of the most heartbreaking aspects of OCD. Boober is the "I can't let myself do fun things because I'm afraid of things other people don't worry about" side and Wembly is the "why can't my brain just be normal?!? side. All we need now is a character who has to do stupid little rituals that they are fully aware are stupid Or Else.