Fraggle Rock: 40 Years Later – “The Doozer Contest”

Published: March 22, 2024
Categories: Feature, Reviews

Synopsis: After a new recipe for Doozer sticks is a hit, a rivalry develops between Flange and Modem Doozer that threatens the foundation of the community as they engage in the ancient tradition of a tower-building contest.

Original air date: March 19, 1984

Competition is everywhere in society, from sports teams vying for championships to our free-market economy to the elections that determine our government which you should ABSOLUTELY VOTE IN THIS YEAR, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD. But it’s true, there can be a downside to it as well. People can get fanatical about what they love, shutting out those with different opinions. But does that mean all competition is bad? The Doozers seem to think so, but I argue that their troubles stem not from taking part in it, but from how they view it.

Things get started as the Doozers experiment with new additives to Doozer sticks. Flange Doozer introduces tomato extract, while Modem incorporates mustard powder. Both compliment each other on their work, but things get a little complicated when Gobo, Wembley, Mokey, Red, and Boober stop by for lunch. The new flavorings go over like gangbusters, but eventually, the gang decide they favor the mustard. For a show with a mission of ending war, I suppose it was inevitable that Fraggle Rock would tackle one of the world’s most tense debates, one that has consumed humanity for ages: ketchup vs. mustard.

This gives Modem a boost of confidence, and she does something that’s considered a no-no in Doozer society: she takes credit for the mustard. In a way, that gives us a close comparison between Doozers and communist society in its purest form, where all wealth belongs to the collective. In this case, the wealth is social status, and it’s accumulated by taking credit for personal accomplishments. This doesn’t sit well with Flange, who feels his own work with the tomato extract deserves recognition. Modem, on the other hand, says the Fraggles’ comments say enough, and the mustard beats all. But soon, with these opinions going unchecked, jealousy takes over and the debate degrades into an all-out argument, insults and all. And this is where competition begins to show its dark side. There’s nothing wrong with having an opinion, but when you start taking it too personally and viewing those who disagree as the enemy, it’s a slippery slope to alienation. Personally, I love to cheer on the New York Mets, but having a Philadelphia Phillies fan screaming in your face that Mr. Met is the devil incarnate isn’t exactly fun. (Besides, we all know that Satan roots for Atlanta.)

The ongoing resentment prompts Flange to throw down his helmet and challenge Modem to settle the matter of who the better worker is with the ancient Doozer tradition of a building contest, where both contestants will assemble a team and erect a tower, with Architect Doozer deciding the winner. Of course, the wizened Architect isn’t exactly an enthusiastic participant, predicting that this competition will cause a schism among the Doozers. And sure enough, as the teams come together, the entire community is drawn into the rivalry, including Flange’s daughter Cotterpin, who gets in a fight with classmate Wrench, who happens to be Modem’s son. Thus, fandom becomes fanaticism, alienation gives way to physical violence, and competition morphs into warmongering.

What started as a simple experiment has gotten way out of control by the time the contest rolls around. And ever the leader, the Architect finds both towers equally impressive, refusing to call a winner. Now this could’ve been the push Flange and Modem needed to get past their differences and get back to being friendly coworkers, but dagnabbit, they want a champion! So they threaten to keep building indefinitely, but a different solution presents itself: as it started with Fraggles, so shall it end with them. The gang comes back, but finds the individual tomato and mustard towers lacking. Only when Wembley is pressed to make the decision do they realize that the flavors taste best when they are together. Symbolism!

Naturally, the beef is squashed, and all is well once more with the Doozers. But is competition so bad that the Doozers should ignore it completely? I don’t think so. Competition can be great, as it allows people to learn new techniques and improve themselves as they see what others do. It can also build camaraderie, but only as long as people don’t take it too seriously and keep the good of the group in their minds. Take the Olympics, for example. When everyone keeps the Olympic ideals of unity through sport in mind, athletes can cross the barriers of nationality and come together in a way their governments cannot. Doozers could be figuring out new ways to build towers and new tastes to appeal to Fraggles, but they’re trapped in the fear that competition will just erase the power of the collective. When it’s used responsibly, competition can make the collective even better.

Strongest Moment: After Cotterpin’s fight, Flange goes to Modem’s house to call off the fight, but on his way, he begins thinking about how the other Doozers will see him, and worries Modem will say he’s a fool. By the time he gets to her front door, he asks, “who are you calling a fool!” Great development and great payoff!

Weakest Moment: Flange is so dismayed at the idea of taking credit that when Cotterpin asks what credit is, he passes it off to her mother, Wingnut. Sometimes you need to put your ego aside for your child, Flange. Not cool.

MVF (Most Valuable Fraggle): In keeping with the Doozer ideal, nobody gets the honor this week. After all, you have to give no credit where no credit’s due!

First Appearance of…: Considering she’s one of the episode’s focal characters, it’s hard to believe that this was Modem Doozer’s debut. Crosscut Doozer also made his inaugural appearance, but he wasn’t quite as important.

Coolest Puppetry Effect: It’s just a simple bit of material added on and a shake of the head, but the Doozers sticking their tongues out still looks neat. It doesn’t have to be elaborate to look cool!

Fraggle Lore: We learn that Doozers abhor competition and taking credit. We also learn that they have a ridiculously fast healing factor, as Cotterpin recovers from her injuries the day after her fight.

One More Thing…: And now, a word about the Doc and Sprocket story: Sprocket gets into an aggressive relationship with the new dog in town because Ned Schimmelfinney gave them a bone, and he plans to fight the new dog to get the bone for himself. Doc tells him he’ll have to fight fair, and trains him to box. Doc, Sprocket is YOUR dog. Schimmelfinney doesn’t owe him a bone, YOU do. You’re constantly ignoring Sprocket because a freakin’ ant farm fascinates you. Forget what I said about “The Great Radish Famine,” I’m starting to think Doc is the real villain of Fraggle Rock.

Okay, One More Thing: In this week’s postcard from Uncle Traveling Matt, he attempts to scale what he thinks is a large Doozer tower, but in reality, it’s Toronto’s CN Tower. It’s cool to see the city skyline before the Rogers Centre, home of baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays, was built. There have been so many sports competitions in that building. Take that, Doozers!

Click here to order a hot dog with extra Doozer sticks on the ToughPigs Discord!

by Matthew Soberman –

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