Tough Pigs Soapbox

August 24, 2003


Muppet Book Club

"The Great Twiddlebug Mystery"


Book  :   Part 1  --  Part 2  --  Part 3

Commentary  :   Part 4  --  Part 5  --  Part 6



The Epistemology of Betty Lou


Alaina Breeden:

What the heck is up with Betty Lou?


Little arrogant hussy. First off, what's up with calling her friend "Friend"? Is she too good for names? I know Roosevelt Franklin is a long name, give it a whirl.


Second, she's one step away from calling Sherlock a freaking moron, and then at the end she says she's "thrilled at the fact that I had been there to listen while Sherlock Hemlock, the world's greatest detective, solved perhaps his greatest case." 


Switch sides much, Betty Lou?


Jes Evans:

First of all, there is gonna be WAR here in the Book Club if you keep referring to my girl Betty Lou as an arrogant hussy! She's just doing her best to tell a story in the most simple way possible so that all the girls and boys at home can follow along. Can you say, "Howdy, neighbor"? I thought so.  


Alaina Breeden:

Sure you can, but would you call a close friend "Friend," like to call someone over? I would never say, "Oh, Friend, Friend, over here."  


Jes Evans:

Well, who's to say how close Betty Lou and Roosevelt are anyway? I mean, she clearly didn't get invited to his birthday party.


Danny Horn:

Ooh, I hadn't thought of that. What an amazingly awkward situation. 


Although, given how accident-prone the party turned out to be, it's a lucky escape for Betty Lou.


Jes Evans:

Anyway, I don't think you understand Betty Lou's personality like I do. Betty Lou's concern over the trash in the yard doesn't stem from her feelings for her friend, but rather her concern that things not be a "terrible mess." She is mostly caught up in the mess because of her own personality disorders, not due to empathy for Friend.


She's curious because a) she wants to be clear on what made such a terrible mess and why, so that b) she can make sure that it gets cleaned up and doesn't happen again, because c) she's a control freak, and also is d) nosy and e) the story will make for good gossip next time she and Prairie Dawn get together.


Tom Holste:

Does anyone else having a hard time telling Prairie Dawn and Betty Lou apart? I mean, standing next to each other they don't look alike. But how often do they stand next to each other? 


Betty Lou's unwillingness to address Roosevelt Franklin by his name is odd. Perhaps that's her way of being cold to him after he didn't invite her to the party. Or, possibly, this isn't Roosevelt Franklin at all, but an early, wilder Roosevelt without a name.


Jog Jalink:

The difference between Betty Lou and Prairie Dawn is that Betty has bangs, and Prairie doesn't.


Roosevelt was around in 1969, singing the "Days of the Week" song. Betty must have known his name.


Danny Horn:

But was he called Roosevelt Franklin then, or was he just an Anything Muppet? 


Jog Jalink:

He was Roosevelt Franklin already. They call him Roosevelt Franklin, and he does his "my first name first and my second name second" line. 


Danny Horn:

Then, yeah, Betty Lou is in error.


She's probably one of those people who calls everyone "Sweetheart" and "Baby" because she can't be bothered to learn their names. 


Tom Holste:

I appreciate the physical description of the characters, but I actually remember that. But their personalities were so nondescript, or they were just featured so irregularly, I can't say, "Oh, remember the sketch where Prairie Dawn did thus-and-so?" or "How about when Betty Lou did this-and-that?" 


Ryan Roe:

I've seen a lot of stuff with Prairie Dawn, but I can only remember seeing Betty Lou a handful of times. Maybe they're sisters separated at birth.


Danny Horn:

It's interesting that this whole book is about what evidence you need to establish the truth of a proposition, and we've spent the entire discussion so far trying to figure out whether Herry is Herry, whether Roosevelt Franklin is Roosevelt Franklin, and which one is Betty Lou.


This may be the most philosophically complicated discussion we've ever had.


So I'm going to see your questions, and raise you one: How do we even know that Betty Lou exists?


I think Prairie Dawn and Betty Lou are just two different versions of the little-girl Anything Muppet, who originally didn't have a consistent voice or characterization. They were the Schrodinger's Cat of Sesame characters -- both Prairie Dawn and Betty Lou at the same time. 


When they started doing the Sesame Street Pageant sketches, they discovered that the Prairie Dawn character worked -- so the Betty/Prairie waveform collapsed, and from then on we only had Prairie Dawn.


So not only does Betty Lou not exist, but echoes from the collapsing waveform rippled backwards through space-time, so in fact Betty Lou has never existed.


I challenge you to prove otherwise.


Ryan Roe:

So you're saying even the original Betty Lou from before the collapse of the waveform has ceased to exist? She existed in the original timeline, so wouldn't there be more serious repercussions to the space/time/felt continuum?


Or perhaps Betty Lou is now both dead and alive at the same time. If the Betty Lou from before the collapse were to travel in time to the present, she and Prairie Dawn would negate each other's existence. Sesame Street would become a black hole, and the rest of the world would be sucked into it.


Then the number of the day would be zero.


John Hamilton:

Brilliant theses, but I think it's less complicated.


Ever see "Psycho"? I suspect Betty Lou is rotting in a wheelchair in someone's basement... probably "around the corner."


Jes Evans:

Not true! You guys are all whacked.


Betty Lou and Prairie Dawn are distinct individuals. You chauvinists! This is an outrage. Power to the sisters!


Danny Horn:

I recognize the existence of an identifiable Prairie Dawn. Prairie Dawn is not the issue.


I just don't recognize the existence of Betty Lou.


Jes Evans:

Betty Lou is in a lot of Sesame books. SHE IS! 


Danny Horn:

I will grant you that. But was she on the show?


Jog Jalink:

Betty Lou existed on the show from the beginning. She was used mostly as one of many Muppet girls, shared by various performers from Frank Oz to Fran Brill, from Jerry Nelson to Marilyn Sokol.


She appeared in "Hunt for Happiness," but she was called Helen Happy. 


I think the Sesame staff realized that Betty Lou was all over the place in the books but not too much of a character on the show, so they gave her to Lisa Buckley somewhere in the 90's during the New Character Explosion and made her a doll character or something. (I've never seen her during those days.)


A big difference between Prairie and Betty on the show is that Prairie has a stronger personality. She's a true leader, always in charge of her own projects, and often a little bossy and/or neurotic. 


Betty Lou never had that urge to lead. She's just the plain girl next door. 


Danny Horn:

My point exactly.


She didn't have a consistent performer for over 20 years.


She sometimes had a different name.


She doesn't really have a personality.


At the point where she finally got a performer and one character trait, nobody can remember anything she did.


Betty Lou does not exist. QED.


So the question is: If Betty Lou doesn't exist, then why is "she" supposedly narrating this book? Who is "Betty Lou" covering for?


The mystery deepens. 


Tom Holste:

Okay. I'll rescind my comments that Prairie and Betty are the same person, and I now agree with Danny that Betty simply doesn't exist.


She may in fact simply be a psychological projection from the other characters, a la Fight Club.


Ryan Roe:

At this point, my own personal theory is that Betty Lou exists, but she has a perpetual identity crisis.



Book  :   Part 1  --  Part 2  --  Part 3

Commentary :   Part 4  --  Part 5 -- Part 6



Soapbox Contents

Muppet Book Club: "The Case of the Missing Mother"

Muppet Book Club: "Cookie Monster and the Cookie Tree"