Episode 378: Like Kermit the Frog, He Seems Rife for Hot Takes

On the Overthinking It Podcast, we celebrate our seventh anniverary with a discussion of the Muppets, the Volkswagen scandal, and Pope Francis’s visit to the United States.

otip-logo-podcastoneMatthew Belinkie, Peter Fenzel, Mark Lee, and Matthew Wrather celebrate the 7th anniversary of the podcast by overthinking the Muppets, the Volkswagen scandal, and Pope Francis’s visit to the United States.


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16 Comments on “Episode 378: Like Kermit the Frog, He Seems Rife for Hot Takes”

  1. Kevin #

    I’ve always thought that Bugs Bunny and all the Looney Tunes cartoons from the mid-20th century were targeted at adults despite ostensibly being children’s fare. They’re really quite subversive.


  2. Lemur #

    Well, actually: “rife with” means something like “full of, pregnant with, abundant in”; “ripe for” means “ready for, fully developed for, highly susceptible to.” You pretty clearly mean that Kermit and the Pope are ripe, not rife, for hot takes. Coming after the discussion early in this episode about pedantry vs. pretension and specifically referencing Wrather’s previous “grammar Thursday” posts, I really wondered for a long time whether this was intentionally placed there as a kind of Easter egg for those of us who are proud pedants. Speaking of which, thanks for the shout-out about my well-actually from last week about “fenzelian” – and I promise not to keep doing it every time. This is the last one. For a while, anyway.

    On a more cheerful note, here’s something that is fun: swap the words “Pope” and “hope” in well-known phrases. “Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi – you’re my only Pope.” *giggles*

    I liked Belinkie’s point about the huge interest in Pope Francis from non-Catholics. It seems to me kind of reminiscent of the fascination many Americans seem to have for the British royal family. I’m not sure what to make of that, but I’ll throw it out there.

    Anecdote about Volkswagen and branding/advertising: When I was in college in 2002, I was in my dorm room one day IM-ing with a friend who lived in DC and he mentioned plans to watch Dr. Who that night (way before the reboot existed, the local PBS channel played stories from the original Dr Who), and I spontaneously decided to drive five hours up to watch it with him and then drive five hours back to Chapel Hill for an 11am class the next day. I commented at the time I felt like I was living in a Volkswagen commercial. (“People will take any excuse to spend ten hours behind the wheel of a VW Beetle,” that kind of message.)


    • DeanMoriarty #

      I think this pope is, in fact, rife with “hot takes.”
      What was his speaking tour, if not a long list of his “hot takes” on things that affect Catholicism, spirituality, and humanity?

      Also, he’s an old guy from Buenos Aires. If you ever want to hear people who believe themselves to be “full of, abundant in” “hot takes,” sit down in a Buenos Aires cafe near to a table of a couple of old guys complaining and arguing and listen in. (It doesn’t matter what time or where you are in Buenos Aires, you will always find a coffee shop with a table with a couple of old guys arguing and complaining.) It goes without saying that most of these takes, are, in fact, about as tired and worn out as any year-old Reddit meme.


      • Lemur #

        Good point – “rife with” would also be acceptable. From context, I believe “ripe for” was the intended meaning, but maybe that accounts for the confusion. Either way, though, “rife for” is an error (though a minor one).


  3. Lholcombe #

    As usual, it’s fun to hear you guys wax on about things that are on the edge or just outside of the realm of pop culture. Like this Volkswagen thing. But here’s one point I’d like to add to that discussion. When the car is being tested, the software kicks on a system that reduces emissions, allowing the vehicle to pass inspection. But when that system is working, power, acceleration, and fuel economy drop significantly. Under normal driving conditions, power, acceleration, and fuel economy are maximized, at the expense of emission strength. The solution will likely be a recall and a software patch – which will reduce the power, acceleration, and fuel economy of the car forever. I believe that people buy diesel VWs because they offer the same power and acceleration as a gasoline car, but with greatly increased fuel economy. Losing those features makes a diesel considerably more difficult to maintain and less fun to drive than a gasoline vehicle, but you’ve paid $10k extra for the burden. That’s where the betrayal is, and I totally understand why consumers are angry.

    Full disclosure: long-time VW enthusiast and Golf driver (gasoline engine)


  4. Peter Tupper #

    Maybe the plotlines about Kermit and Piggy’s breakup, and especially Kermit’s depression and overeating, are necessitated by the mockumentary format. If there is no discrepancy between Kermit’s actions and his emotions, there is nothing for him to talk about in the talking head interviews. For the format to work, the characters have to have subtext, hidden agendas, interiority, etc. That also means that the child-like innocence and aspirations that once characterized the Muppets had to be reduced. They’ve been forced into psychological modernity.


  5. DeanMoriarty #

    About a week or two ago, I watched a documentary on Jim Henson and they mentioned some things that I think are important to keep in mind when talking about The Muppets and The Muppet Show.
    The main thing is that Henson created The Muppet Show specifically and explicitly to get out of the children’s TV pigeonhole that Sesame Street had put him in (or at least that he thought it had put him in). In fact, when he first started trying to create and sell the show it was called “Sex & Violence.”
    It was only after he succeeded in making a show for adults, according to this documentary, that he felt comfortable going back children’s stories because he wanted to not because he was expected to.
    I’d argue that the warmth and love that was at the heart of even this show, so interested in being adult, mature and hip, was actually the result of Henson’s auteurship.
    Once he was gone, all attempts to make something with the Muppets struggled to recreate that balance of strange, experimental, and mature humor with the deep-seated sense of love, warmth and decency that the man himself brought as a creative force.I think for the past couple of decades the balance has been more on the side of warmth, love and friendship. The new show seems to be trying to skew more towards the “adult & hip” aspects of The Muppet Show.


    • Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

      What documentary was this? Sounds fascinating!

      I did think that the rebooted Muppet movies have been pretty solid. They do get pretty sentimental, but I’m not inherently against that. The Muppets are large; they contain multitudes.


      • DeanMoriarty #

        It was a PBS doc series called ‘In Their Own Words.’ I’d never heard of it, just caught it randomly a couple of weeks ago.
        It was pretty good, though it still contains the trace of hagiography that PBS docs often have.


  6. David Banuelos #

    Unless I missed it, I don’t think Wrather gave an example of something “pretentious,” as Lee requested.


  7. Amanda #

    Just realized something while relistening to the episode. I didn’t realize there was a point in time when people doubted the potential of Vin Diesel’s career. Maybe it was a US only thing, he was always pretty popular in Brazil.
    Fenzel said, just after he mentioned Vin Diesel, that the kinds of movies he likes have been getting made more often, which is the exact opposite of how I feel (and twitter tells me I’m not alone in that). Increasingly, more “adult” movies (I’m not talking about porn, obvs, but movies that don’t generally appeal to teenagers, unless you’re a weirdo like teenaged me, watching Jarmusch at the movies–growing up in São Paulo probably helped) have been getting smaller releases, made less often, etc. But even I always enjoyed Vin Diesel movies! I generally don’t like 80% of action movies, but XXX and the Fast and Furious movies are great! Anyway, just surprised to find out there was ever any doubt that Vin Diesel’s awesome. Also, in a way, isn’t Vin Diesel like the non-latin, film industry version of Pitbull? Cool, charming guy who has big world wide appeal? In a way?


    • Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

      The thing about Vin Diesel is that in many ways he’s been struggling since The Chronicles of Riddick… with the exception of this one massive franchise. He can’t really open a movie himself, as The Last Witch Hunter is going to prove again. Don’t get me wrong, I love the guy. I watched Babylon A.D.! And maybe a new XXX will be a whole new franchise he can ride, but I dunno. The guy’s 48. His shelf life as “action sports secret agent” is questionable.

      Which is too bad, because as Pete knows I would love to see another full-out Riddick movie. That universe was wonderfully weird.


      • Amanda #

        I don’t think any male actors can open a movie by themselves at this point though. A lot has been written about how a single actor (of any gender) just isn’t enough to get people to the movies anymore. And second, he may be 48, and I get your point, but may I remind you of Liam Neeson? No one watching Love Actually (or like, Husbands and Wives) could have predicted his post-Taken career, and yet…


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