Tuesday, September 24, 2013

"Fraggle Rock" Month - Season 3, Episode 8: "Believe it or Not!"

I'm very happy to report that despite yesterday's lousy episode, season three may be the overall best season of "Fraggle Rock" thus far.  The writers and performers know the world and the characters very well by now, and they're freed up to tell much more sophisticated stories.

Today's episode is a doozy!  I was going to pass it over for discussing a more popular episode like "The Secret Society of Poobahs" or "The Bells of Fraggle Rock", but the more I think about "Believe it or Not", the more it fascinates me (and besides, Tough Pigs already did an excellent writeup on "The Bells of Fraggle Rock", and who wants to celebrate the Winter Solstice right after the Autumnal Equinox anyway?)  I remember reading that the story was pitched as an exploration of the subjective nature of reality, which is mind-blowing.  It's one of the most psychologically dense episodes in a series full of them. 

Red and Wembly venture out into the Gorg's Garden seeking adventure and they find one in Skenfrith.  Skenfrith is a little furry, vaguely Stitch-like whatsit.  Oh, and his appearance and character depend entirely on what other people think of him.  If you like Skenfrith, he remains a cute little guy.  If you're friends with him, he'll start to imitate you.  And if, say, Skenfrith takes up residence in your long-neglected basement without your knowledge, and you're kind of afraid of what might be lurking down there when you go down to clean, he turns into a monster.

So on the one hand, this is a funny romp with the Fraggles and the Gorgs and their encounter with a magical little creature with weird powers.  And on the other hand, it is an episode of a children's program about how we project our fears onto people we don't understand.  It is warning its young audience that their prejudices and phobias are only going to make them believe that whatever -or whoever- they're afraid of is scary and monstrous, and of how deeply harmful it is to project our worst expectations onto others.  And then it offers some reassurance (along with another series thesis statement): If you get to know somebody who may seems strange or different, you might just see they're not so scary after all.  And remember this is in 1985.  Holy s**t, guys

I already mentioned how I'm in awe of "Fraggle Rock" right?  Cause if I haven't, it bears repeating here.

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