Exit, surrounded by Muppets

Tremendous respect for David Bowie, and a theory on what seems truly alien

As somebody who really only knew David Bowie’s work “indirectly,” it’s bizarre how profoundly firmament-shaking it is to realize he’s no longer a constant, always creating new things that no one else would be able to do.

I really, really liked Labyrinth a lot (I think I was unfortunately at just the wrong age to keep from loving it), and I totally, genuinely loved his duet with Bing Crosby on “Little Drummer Boy.” But apart from that, I always thought of his music as something that cooler people than me listened to. It honestly wasn’t until The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou that I was aware of individual songs (apart from “Space Oddity” and “China Girl”), and the versions that come to my head are still the acoustic ones in Portuguese.

But amidst all the people talking about how preternaturally talented and legendary he was, and what a huge influence he was on “weird” kids (whether LGBT or otherwise), the thing that I keep seeing over and over is how kind and funny he was in person.

It’s weird because I would’ve expected the accounts of him being like an alien or an impossibly famous artist. But I was surprised by that unassuming response to a fan letter in Letters of Note, or the account of him making fun of his own eye color, or just multiple stories of him putting people in awe of him at ease.

Even a still from Labyrinth with him smiling surrounded by goblins is a reminder that the alien, intimidating, super-powerful menace was the character he was playing. The man himself was just an impossibly famous rock star who’d decided to have fun and share his talent by being in a movie with muppets.

When you’re that cool and that universally loved, it seems like you don’t HAVE to be kind and funny, so it must’ve just come naturally.

It makes me wonder if what we perceive as alien and unapproachable is actually just being able to appreciate exactly how weird and silly we all are. And then, instead of being embarrassed by it or trying to disguise it, just completely celebrating it.