The Wasatch Behind: Sesame Street gone PC
In case you missed it, the early 1970s episodes of Sesame Street are now available on DVD - with a warning that they are not suitable for small children. What? My kids grew up with those early versions of Sesame Street. No wonder they turned out the way they did. It wasn't my fault after all, thank goodness.
Yes folks, according to the New York Times, the new executive producer of Sesame Street says the older versions of the show spotlighted characters with serious personality flaws and possible mental health issues who demonstrated socially unacceptable behavior in a squalid, urban setting.
Sounds like home all right. My poor kids never had a chance.
For example, an early character profile shows that Cookie Monster smoked a pipe, had a very limited vocabulary, and gobbled cookies. It is obvious that he had low self-esteem, was carelessly ruining his health and endangering others with secondhand smoke, and had all of the signs of a serious addiction. His addiction was cookies, but what the heck, an addict is an addict. We should feel sorry for addicts and not laugh at them. And besides, his constant cookie crunching surely taught kids bad eating habits and encouraged obesity.
Oscar the Grouch was obviously suffering from clinical depression and he lived in a garbage can. Could there be a more insensitive depiction of a poor, homeless person? No wonder Oscar was a grouch. He was a victim of social injustice and economic hard times. We should have pitied him instead of laughing at him. Big Bird should have taken him to the homeless shelter and the free mental health clinic where he could have gotten some help. Instead, everyone constantly knocked on his garbage can lid to bother the poor guy and then laugh at him when he was so ornery and sarcastic.
Big Bird was a goofy character, too. He, or she (How do you tell?) was hopelessly naÃ¯Â¿Â½ve and unrealistically cheerful. Surely this demonstrates a low IQ and limited street savvy that was sure to make the optimistic ostrich a victim in the inner city. Real city people are smarter and more sophisticated than that. Big Bird was a bumpkin, and hardly someone we would want our kids to emulate.
And then, even Bert and Ernie had their socially unacceptable faults. Bert was critical and impatient, while Ernie came across as a little slow. Bert was not the best example of tolerance, that greatest of social virtues, and Ernie had the symptoms of attention deficit disorder, dyslexia, and old-fashioned stupidity. How could we ever find such characters endearing or entertaining?
Other characters were offensive, too. Snuffalopogus was a cruel caricature of fat, make-believe creatures, Queen Quinella was the quintessential rich white woman, and The Count looked and talked too much like Al Gore.
And the whole Sesame Street setting was socially unacceptable. All of the characters lived in an alley, and Bert and Ernie's apartment was a dreary basement. We wouldn't want today's kids to think that is okay. Where was the city housing authority? Why didn't those victims of economic and social injustice have a better place to live, paid for by taxing the evil rich people and their evil corporations?
And so, we are told, today's Sesame Street is a warm, fuzzy, politically correct place suitable for small children. Gone are all of the evil influences. Bert has been to sensitivity training, Oscar to anger management, Big Bird is more PC, and Elmo is whacked out on Prozac. Cookie Monster gave up smoking a long, long time ago.
But kids today don't watch Sesame Street anyway. Today's kids watch violent super heroes, morphing power rangers, mutant ninja turtles, grand theft auto III, Darla has two mommies, MTV, and that squiggly, underwear-challenged Britney Spears.
It's nice to know that those old character-damaging shows like Sesame Street aren't popular anymore, don't you think?