Finding the Rainbow Connection

by Martin Yip

‘Rainbow Connection’ is the opening song of the 1979 film The Muppet Movie, performed by Kermit the Frog. Kermit’s laid-back performance did not prevent his song from inspiring generations of viewers over the years, as it contains a profound message of optimism and empowerment that will resonate for years to come.

Why are there so many songs about rainbows
And what’s on the other side?
Rainbows are visions, but only illusions
And rainbows have nothing to hide
So we’ve been told, and some choose to believe it
I know they’re wrong, wait and see
Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me

The opening stanza introduces rainbows as the spotlight of the song and describes its nature as understood by Kermit. Kermit wonders about rainbows because he has heard many songs about them, and these songs inform his knowledge of rainbows. The juxtaposition between ‘visions’ and ‘only illusions’ suggest some fancifulness attributed to rainbows, as they are ultimately ‘not real’. The claim that ‘rainbows have nothing to hide’ further supports this sentiment, since it shows that rainbows have nothing to show beyond their illusions. However, this is upended when Kermit confidently sings, ‘I know they’re wrong’. The following sentence ‘wait and see’ reflects Kermit’s confidence in his view, and also creates suspense as the conflict between two attitudes cannot be resolved immediately. Using the rule of three, the comparison between ‘the lovers’, ‘the dreamers’, and Kermit draws positive connotations to him and instils within himself a sense of legitimacy, as it is this coalition that believes there is a ‘rainbow connection’ and that they will find it. This line also raises the question of what the rainbow connection is, a crucial question which is resolved by the end of the song.

Who said that every wish would be heard and answered
When wished on the morning star?
Somebody thought of that, and someone believed it
Look what it’s done so far
What’s so amazing that keeps us stargazing
And what do we think we might see?
Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me

The second stanza further develops the conflict between what is real and what is not, thus emphasising Kermit and his companions’ strong belief and determination in finding the rainbow connection. The first four lines of the stanza mirror those of the first by contrasting what other people think and what Kermit thinks. It also contrasts significantly with the previous stanza in that whereas the others’ opinions about rainbows were deemed too negative, their opinions about morning stars are too positive. The rhetorical question evinced in ‘who said that’ reveals the cynical side of Kermit, as he refuses to believe in the magical effectiveness of wishing on the morning star. This is reinforced by his observations – ‘look what it’s done so far’ for those who did believe. Kermit’s disbelief is congruent with his belief in ‘what’s so amazing’. The second question in the stanza is still rhetorical, as Kermit has some answer in mind, believing that there is more to the stars than a simple wish-granting ability, that something more profound can be reached from gazing at stars. This echoes the characterisation of rainbows in the first stanza, which are more than just ‘illusions’.

All of us under its spell
We know that it’s probably magic

The bridge, although short, gives valuable insights into what Kermit and his companions think the rainbow connection is. Kermit’s use of the collective pronoun emphasises that the connection influences him and other like-minded people, and at this point it is worth considering what similarities exist between the lovers, the dreamers, and him. They share a positive outlook for the future and life in general; they have optimistic thoughts about something that is prized but yet to be attained; and whilst they don’t hold whimsical beliefs, they are keen to bridge the gap between ‘reality’ at present and the objects of their love and dreams. The references to ‘magic’ are at first glance somewhat self-contradictory, given Kermit’s affirmation of the ‘realness’ and non-triviality of rainbows and morning stars. This can be resolved via a distinction between ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’ magic: the former refers to supernatural powers, much like wizards waving their wands or a deity exercising their powers, while the latter refers to earthly performances, which involve hard work and deep thought in order for the magician to perform apparently impossible acts through honed technique and considered deception. Kermit’s notion of magic is a mixture of the two, taking an emphasis on agency and conscientiousness from the latter interpretation and an emphasis on magical appearances from the former. This makes clear his rejection of the idea that magic just exists without any explanation or cause.

Have you been half asleep, and have you heard voices?
I’ve heard them calling my name
Is this the sweet sound that calls the young sailors?
The voice might be one and the same
I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it
It’s something that I’m supposed to be
Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me

The final stanza alludes to the mystical overlap between dreams and reality, affirming Kermit’s commitment to take initiative in seeking what he wishes. Kermit turns to the listener in the opening questions. The state of being ‘half asleep’ and hearing voices is exactly where dreams and reality meet, because one cannot tell for sure which is which. It is in this context that Kermit finds his calling. The image of a ‘sweet sound’ calling ‘young sailors’ inspires a sense of adventure, prompting whoever hears the sound to embark on their own journey. By suggesting that the ‘voices’ he has heard may be ‘one and the same’, Kermit identifies the common theme of the voices that he has heard ‘too many times’: they are a calling for the dreamer to set out to chase their dreams, no matter who they are and what their dreams may be. It is upon this realisation that Kermit understands what he is ‘supposed to be’: someone who works for what they wish for. It is this identity that unites Kermit with the lovers and the dreamers, and it is the process of striving for what they want that will enable them to find the rainbow connection.

La-da-da, de-da-da-do

Ultimately, the rainbow connection is the bridge between the wishes and desires of the lovers, the dreamers, Kermit, and reality. It is not non-existent, as those who think rainbows are mere illusions suggest, for visions can actually come true. Nor is it supernatural, as those who believe in the power of the morning star suggest, since there is no such perfectly reliable power that we can depend on whenever it appears in our sights. The rainbow connection is something in between. It is constituted by the individual first having the optimistic belief that their hopes can be reached, and then embarking on the journey to pursue them, as opposed to giving them up or passively waiting for them to come true. It is these two characteristics that distinguish the lovers, the dreamers, and Kermit from the rest, and it is entirely because they believe in the rainbow connection that it exists for them. When they bring reality closer to their wishes, they will be able to look back and find the connection that they have forged for themselves.

Kermit’s message is particularly suitable when we are in times of disappointment and despair, or even simply when we are so engulfed in everyday tasks, with an infinitely long to-do list as well as pressures and expectations from multiple people to tackle. As much as we should keep our feet on the ground, Kermit assures us of our worth and reminds us to look up at the sky. 

The Poor Print

Established in 2013, The Poor Print is the student-run newspaper of Oriel College, Oxford, written by members of the JCR, MCR, SCR and staff. New issues are published fortnightly during term. Our current Executive Editors are Siddiq Islam and Jerric Chong.

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