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Puppet Blow Jobs Blow

August 16, 2007

San Francisco is going doollally for Avenue Q. In the latest episode of our present local Muppet Mania, the San Francisco Chronicle's esteemed senior arts journalist, Steve Winn, has written an article about the current cultural trend towards arts projects based on childhood books, TV shows and films. The focus of his article is an in-depth description of the joys of seeing two puppets have sex on stage in Avenue Q. It was hard to keep a straight face as I read:

When they [puppet characters Kate Monster and Princeton] finally go to bed together, these two bashful, bumbling souls come bashing at each other with a wild abandon. Nonexistent as they may be below the waist, the puppet lovers do it all in athletic and vividly performed rounds of intercourse and oral sex. They talk a pretty raunchy game, too.

Frantic and funny, the scene gets at both the raw physicality of sex and the genuine awkward intimacy of young lovers in a way that few stage shows or even the frankest movies do. Because they don't have fully represented bodies, the puppets liberate our own sexual imaginations to roam and identify freely.

Come off it, Steve. The puppet sex scene was nothing but embarrassing. To give it such weighty attention is absurd. It makes me think of the journalism surrounding the first Matrix movie a few years ago, when film critics went bananas over the relationships between the film's themes and Jean Baudrillard's philosophical thought.

Beyond Winn's over-labored attempt to imbue Avenue Q with depth, I don't agree with the overall thesis of his piece. We're not seeing an especial spike in the quantity of childhood-centric art works today. I think nostalgia for the trappings of childhood is an ongoing theme in art as it is in our lives. The cutesy-kitsch of Jeff Koons' sculptures, the puppets in Paula Vogel's The Long Christmas Ride Home, the endless art exhibits devoted to dismembered Barbie dolls. These are not new things.

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