Monday, January 4, 2016

Froggy the Gremlin WAS Joeseph Campbell's Trickster Incarnate!

1/3/2016 -
Andy's Gang - Pasta Fazooli vs. Froggy the Gremlin - Tuba
Saturday morning and it was time for our souls to come back to life again. Since Monday at an early hour, in those tomb quiet classrooms of PS 187, our teachers had us memorize lists of spelling words, times tables, and state capitals. Wonder, creativity, fancy, and playfulness had been wrung out of our beings as basic academic skills and the rituals of social conformity were injected into them. But Saturday morning offered kids' TV and before mom was up and trying her best to be as perfect a housewife as Beaver Cleaver's mom, before we had our first bowl of Frosted Flakes, there were things coming through that single cathode ray tube that my family had in the family room; wonderful things that stirred the spirit and the soul. There was Sky King, who with his niece Penny had great adventures flying around The West in his small plane. There was Circus Boy, and Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion, and Rin Tin Tin, and Fury... and there was (drum roll, please...) Andy's Gang, my favorite. And part of Andy's Gang was the character Froggy the Gremlin - my favorite of favorites! :) :) :)

Andy's Gang was a popular show in its day although it had clearly been produced on a very thin shoestring. Fronted by a former movie star whose career was certainly in the toilet by then. It had the poorest production values of any show I can recall. No cartoons; instead it offered moldering file footage and a cheaply bought up adventure serial and it had some Hollywood character actors interact with commercially sold toys that had been re-purposed as puppets for the camera. Magic!

As I look back on it now through the filter of experience,  I can see that Froggy the Gremlin ( a puppet crafted from a cheap rubber squeeze toy) enchanted me so, because he conformed to the (Jungian based) Trickster character archetype talked about extensively by Joseph Campbell in his work. The Trickster can be seen as a variety of hero or associated with a hero story.

Basically, Froggy liked to mess with teachers, something we well-behaved, middle class, suburban children of the '50s would never dare to even imagine, let alone do in real life. But Froggy did it... every Saturday morning. In this clip we see that wonderful character actor Vito Scotti give a goofy rendition of a teacher, but one that embodies the accepted ideal of a teacher at the time. A teacher was an expert. He (or more often she) knew important things and her job was to impart that knowledge to students who didn't know them (Education Theorists recognize this approach and call it the "Knowledge Transfer" approach to Education). The teacher was the not-to-be-questioned authority, both on bodies of fact and in enforcing the rules and values of the classroom. Alas, in the hands and heads of my teachers, mostly married women from Long Island hired on the basis of having a bachelor's degree and having passed a written test at the Board of Education, this power of authority all too often resulted in producing a petty tyrant. And so, Monday through Friday may have been something of an Auschwitz of the mind and spirit for us kids, but blissfully, Saturday morning before mom was up and at work, was liberation and restoration time.

Wherever you are now, buddy, forever, please "Plunk your magic twanger, Froggy!" as Andy would say. And Thank you for saving my mind and soul NBC!

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