As many of you know, I am unhealthily obsessed with the venerable children’s program Sesame Street. It all started innocently enough, watching the show with my baby. Elmo was my gateway drug into this sunny universe but it wasn't long until I needed more Muppets, weirder Muppets, more obscure, even bizarre Muppets. I needed Muppets that time forgot. I needed Muppets that should never have been born. I needed Muppets far beyond the usual crew.
That’s what led me to explore the surprisingly dramatic and dark inner life of the family of Big Bird’s pal, ol’ Snuffy. And that’s what led me to an even more bizarre figure known as Frazzle, a figure Wikipedia unhelpfully describes as “A large orange monster Muppet with big teeth.”
Ah, but Frazzle is no mere large orange monster with big teeth. No, that seriously underscores just how viscerally disturbing Frazzle is. He’s more like something out of H.P. Lovecraft’s worst nightmares more than he is a typical Muppet. Indeed, I was struck by Frazzle initially because it seemed so delightfully and willfully perverse to create a Muppet seemingly designed to scare the holy living shit out of small children.
Frazzle has giant, disturbing yellow eye housed in thick black eyebrows so huge they almost look like a pair of sunglasses, the coarse, wild fur of an untamed beast, horns, and, most disturbing of all, giant fangs for teeth that hang down like knives. His manner of communicating is similarly off-putting. Frazzle communicates sub-verbally, through a series of groans and moans and mumbles and squeaks.
Frazzle is physically repulsive to look at, and difficult to be around, and those are just two of the many reasons I relate to him. How Frazzle looks on the outside is how I feel on the inside, like some strange, curious beast that only wants to be loved and accepted and to find his place in the world, yet is viewed by the world as a monster.
In 1975, Frazzle experienced his ultimate moment of glory as the subject of “The Frazzle Song”, a groovy, jazzy number where a Leon Russell-meets-felt group called The Frazzletones describe the salient characteristics of their good buddy Frazzle. He looks ferocious and fierce, but if you ask him for autograph, or, really, engage him in any way, he’s so overjoyed that he makes his signature growl to express that happiness.
Somewhat confusingly, when Frazzle is despondent, he also makes his signature growl, this time to express his near-suicidal despair, but the growl he makes when happy is identical to the one he makes when sad, so the world of feelings is even more confusing and fraught for Frazzle than it is for most misfits his age.
The Muppet with the thorn in his side, behind Frazzle’s seeming hatred their lies a murderous desire for love. That’s what’s so poignant and relatable about the character. The world looks at Frazzle and see something hideous, something scary, something to be feared and shunned yet he is a fundamentally sweet, kind and child-like figure and in the kindly world of Sesame Street at least, people and Muppets alike are able to see beyond Frazzle’s off-putting exterior to the good-hearted soul underneath.
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