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Welcome back again to My Favorite Muppet of the Day, a week-long daily ode to whoever my current favorite Muppet happens to be. As you’ve probably guessed from the introduction — and the large picture to the right — my favorite Muppet today is Prairie Dawn.
You know, there was much ballyhoo about the introduction of Abby Cadabby as a female Sesame Street character in 2006, and there was similar ballyhooing in 1994 when Zoe showed up. But the fact is, Prairie Dawn has been on the show since its second season, doing her thing day in and day out as many other Muppet chicks have come and gone (Are there any fans of Roxy Marie, Lulu, or Merry Monster in the house?), and she’s a perfectly good female character. I think she’s quite ballyhoo-worthy.
I totally would have played with Prairie Dawn if she had attended my preschool. You could never be bored hanging out with Prairie, because she’s the kind of kid who always has to have something going on. I’d love to be in one of her pageants… I don’t care if I have to play a tree, an egg, a nose hair, or whatever; I’d just love to be in one of her productions, which boast some pretty impressive costume design and songwriting, considering she’s just a little girl.
One of my favorite Prairie Dawn moments comes on the Sesame Street Fairy Tale Album, which I owned on vinyl during my childhood Sesame phase. The Sesame Street Muppets take turns telling stories, and when it’s Prairie’s turn, she tells a lovely story of a girl named Annabelle who befriends a dragon. The album track includes a song called “What Does a Sleeping Dragon Dream Of?” and when I listened to the record as a child, it would often soothe me right to sleep. Prairie’s story doesn’t have the comedy of Bert and Ernie’s or the passion of the Count’s. It’s just a really nice story, and she tells it well.
Which is not to say Prairie can’t be comedic or passionate. In recent years I’ve come to realize that Prairie Dawn is just about the funniest straight man ever, and it’s because her deep desire for everything to go right is a desire not shared by many other Muppets. This is especially evident in her recent “Letter of the Day” sketches with Cookie Monster, in which she goes to great lengths to prevent Cookie from eating the day’s letter, despite the foregone inevitability of it all. Nobody does exasperation quite like Prairie Dawn.
As the story goes, Fran Brill was inspired to come up with the name “Prairie Dawn” when she saw an 8×10″ glossy photo in her agent’s office of an aspiring actress named Prairie Dorn. Do you think Prairie Dorn feels ticked off today because Brill built a career in puppetry on a character with her name? I’d like to think she’s proud of her namesake. Prairie Dawn is strong-willed but definitely feminine (Do any little girls in real life wear bows in their hair any more?), which makes her a great role model for girls. She’s adorable when she’s frustrated, but frustration never prevents her from seeking perfection. Plus, she’s infinity times more interesting than her döppelganger Betty Lou. And that’s why Prairie Dawn is my favorite Muppet today.
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