The last time I saw an episode of Sesame Street was a few years ago. Scott and I were in our lodge room up at the Grand Canyon, the morning of the wedding of some friends, and had the TV on for noise as we got ready to go out for the day. It started out with me just listening to it as I got dressed, but soon enough I was sitting on the edge of the bed, rapt. “This is STILL an excellent show,” I said to Scott. And it was. Interesting. Intelligent. Progressive. And, of course, educational. A show folks rightly feel honored to be invited to appear on, and some of our best and brightest have done so. Who wouldn’t want to spend an afternoon on Sesame Street? I absolutely would. It’s a show parents can watch with their kids without being bored or wanting to chew their right arm off to get away. Given the complaints I’ve heard from parents of young children about Dora and Blue’s Clues and all the rest, I should think a show as smart as Sesame Street would be considered a miracle.
I learned a lot from Sesame Street, along with Electric Company. (They shared the hour when I was a child.) I learned all my early Spanish from Sesame Street. And after years of watching the show, I do an excellent Grover impression, if I do say so myself. “Neeeeear! Faaaaaar!” The show made such a lasting impression on me that I have an Oscar the Grouch puppet at home, a small The Count plush toy on my desk at work, not to mention my Christmas baby Muppets from McDonald’s, c. 1990, and my “Representin’ the Street” t-shirt featuring all the characters. I love Sesame Street. And I’m 36 years old.
Now it comes out, in this story, that the old episodes recently released on DVD have come with a warning that the early days of the show are not necessarily suited for the modern preschooler. Those episodes have been marked for adult viewing only, which is beyond laughable. It was a children’s show. It remains one.
What I want to know is what kind of wussy children are we proposing to raise, protecting them from Sesame Street? I suppose it arises from the same impulse that tried to ban the Looney Tunes comics during my childhood claiming they were too violent. But despite never missing them on Saturday mornings, not once in my life have I dropped an anvil on anyone, nor do I keep a stock of TNT on hand for my dispute resolution and general vendetta needs. Nor for that matter have I ever thought seriously about living in a garbage can. I would wager that children are far more likely to be influenced by their parents’ bad habits then a blue monster eating a pipe.
People want to talk about Bert and Ernie being gay, and Oscar being a homeless misanthrope and Big Bird being prone to hallucinations, and to them I offer a huge “whatEVER!” in lieu of some very colorful language (mostly blue) that such idiocy provokes in me. I’ll spare you that. My mom might some day read this. And I don’t want her to question her choice to allow me to watch Sesame Street.
Sometimes a muppet is just a muppet, and the amount of energy people have spent analyzing this show and finding it questionable, and even dangerous, says far more about the critics than it does about the show. We see the world as we are, not as it is. They’re puppets. They’re cute. They have imaginations. Explain to me how Big Bird is wrong to have an imaginary friend in the Snuffleupagus, but we’re fine with a 8’2” talking yellow bird walking down the streets of the ‘hood? Oscar and Felix weren’t gay; do Bert and Ernie have to be? They live in New York. Rent is expensive, even back in 1969. Having a roomie just made sense. Leave it alone.
Have these people forgotten their childhoods so completely that this show is now unacceptable to them? That children must be protected from it? What were they watching that makes them see a bogeyman at every turn, such that they feel they need to sanitize things that were never unclean in the first place? Because it wasn’t Sesame Street. The whole thing just makes me shake my head; what a waste of energy, and sad evidence of staggeringly mistaken priorities. If you want to protect children, perhaps lobbying to have Child Protective Services not send children back into abusive homes, or better screening procedures for foster parents, or stronger security measures (and better counseling services) at schools would be more deserving of your time and energy. But if you want to talk to me about beating up on a bunch of muppets, I’m sorry, I can’t hear you. I’ve got a banana in my ear.