In 2011, Elizabeth Hyde Stevens wrote an in-depth examination of the Muppets as an entertainment property in the years after Jim Henson’s death in 1990. It was a fascinating essay on how characters so intricately linked to their creator’s performance function as artistic properties owned by a corporation following an artists’ death. Now Stevens is back with a book about Henson himself, and how he juggled the art and commerce sides of his work. Make Art Make Money is a Kindle Serial—meaning you purchase one installment and the remaining chapters are delivered automatically over time—and the first excerpt is available for preview on Longreads. Though the book is pitched largely as a “business book for creative professionals,” this excerpt delves into how Henson juggled his own qualms about selling his artistic creations and the message he sent to kids who watched Sesame Street with those decisions. And as Stevens observes, Henson was uniquely positioned to make the kinds of artistic statements he made:
In 1968, he was thirty-one—placed just in between the boomers and their parents. In generation theory, Henson was a member of the Silent Generation, Americans born in the hardship of depression and raised in war, and yet paradoxically this time produced many of the creative visionaries who would inspire the boomers to mass hippiedom. The popular musicians of the sixties—the Beatles and the Stones—were ten years older than the boomers. They weren’t the flower children of the sixties; they were more like the babysitters, the gurus. In America, Grace Slick and John Fogerty were both born before the 1946 baby boom. It is to these Silent Generation pied pipers that we should rightly attribute much of the sixties’ cultural change, more so than the generation who followed their song.
Subscribe to the Kindle Serial, which will roll out a total of 10 chapters in the next few months, over at Amazon.