What is happening on Sesame Street? As someone who practically grew up on “the street” (along with Mr. Rogers, the Electric Company, and 3-2-1 Contact) I appreciate the way that it taught the sometimes-harsh truths about life. It communicated such ideas simply, smoothly and never tried to gloss over the rough edges. Ideas such as:
1) If you’re not very good at something but want to do it anyway – take precautions (e.g. Super Grover wearing a helmet because of his inability to land without crashing)
2) If you have a secret that isn’t a “bad secret” and try to go around blabbing about it, people will probably not believe you anyway so why not just treasure it as it is (e.g. Big Bird and his “imaginary” friend Snuffy)
3) Just because someone is cranky and mean and unpleasant to those around him, it doesn’t make him a bad person – sometimes he can be a good friend too (e.g. Oscar the Grouch and Slimey)
4) People die sometimes, and that’s okay if they’ve lived a good life (e.g. Mr. Hooper)
5) While letters and numbers are filthy rich and generously share their wealth, punctuation marks are miserly skinflints who don’t care of anyone knows how to use them properly (I mean, how many episodes were sponsored by the semi-colon? Zero. That cheap bastard.)
6) Finally, the nobility of Eastern Europe is crazy about numbers.
Needless to say, I’m a bit concerned that SS is becoming so obsessed about being cute, harmless and cuddly that they are wussifying our children. The latest case in point – they are changing Cookie Monster so that he eats fewer cookies – because they are concerned about obesity. So instead of his “C is For Cookie…” song, he’s now singing a new song about how cookies are “sometimes food” (to be eaten…”sometimes”, get it?). And he’s going to be gorging himself on a wider variety of foods now including…vegetables!
Let’s think about why this is going about the problem entirely the wrong way. First off, when you are 6, you have no restraint. If you are offered a cookie, or a whole plate of cookies, you are not going to practice self-restraint and say “No no mother, Cookie Monster says that cookies are only a 'sometimes food' and I had one yesterday. But thank you for your generous offer, may I have a nice fresh salad with just a dash of vinaigrette instead?” Of course not. You are going to dig in with both fists until they are all gone or are taken away, which you would resist with great force or throwing of tantrums.
You see, the SS folks have it all wrong. It’s not the kids that you have to tell not to eat so much; it’s the parents we have to crack. When I was a kid, we had cookies in the house about as often as we had holiday figures breaking and entering to leave presents. And then they were homemade, so they didn’t last long. And god forbid we ever had candy. We had to make our stash from Halloween last for the entire year (up through at least the summer, at which point all we usually had left were those weird taffies with the orange or black wax paper and no other markings - you know, the kind of candy given out by those who hate children and want to make us suffer by giving out the D-list candy). These days, candy and cookies are ubiquitous. We need to start adjusting grown-up shows to emphasize the point to stop giving you kids so much candy. I would looooove to watch an episode of NYPD Blue where Sipowitcz beats the tar out of some fat kid's dad yelling “You’re turning your kid into a fat slob you &*#&amp;ing piece of %&$#!!! Give him a @*#&%$# carrot next time!”. Or, better yet, imagine an episode of ER where Dr. Carter has to tell a mother “Your son isn’t ‘big boned’ ma’am, he’s suffering from a severe Chips Ahoy overdose. Do you know where he could have got them?” and then calls social services when she confesses she “keeps a stash in the kitchen – next to the cuisinart”.
But alas, it’s probably not going to change. Oh well. Maybe they’ll at least have Cookie Monster use correct grammar and say “Me eat fewer cookies”. But I’m not holding my breath on that one either.
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