Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sesame Street: Hard Core

This New York Times article reviews the new DVD release of "Sesame Street: Old School", explaining that these earliest episodes of Sesame Street are not intended for preschoolers of today. I heard the same thing on NPR today.

Let's see. Cookie Monster had an eating disorder and approached the border of obesity. I was a big fan, yet I'm a wiry 154 lbs. Ernie and Bert? We all knew it. Never cared. Bert was always a nerd, Ernie was always conniving and sneaky. And he taught us how to eat crackers in bed without getting caught. And then there was Oscar. He loved trash. That's all there was to it.

When I was a young lad, no one had heard of Elmo. No one cared if the cast of muppets was ethnically diverse. They were muppets. And they taught us a few things. to this day I can't see a series of a dozen numbers without singing that tune, "Onetwothree Four Five, Sixseveneight nine ten, eleventwelve!"

Elmo is probably the worst thing to ever happen to Sesame Street. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm a big Kevin Klash fan. Any time a several-hundred pound African American can talk with a squeaky voice and get away with it, you won't find me stopping him. But Elmo presents kids today with plenty of negatives: stupidity, wimpiness, and bad grammar. I'd love to see Oscar and Elmo in a Celebrity Death Match. Elmo wouldn't stand a chance.

I think Virginia Heffernan stated it quite well in her article, when she said,

People on “Sesame Street” had limited possibilities and fixed identities, and (the best part) you weren’t expected to change much. The harshness of existence was a given, and no one was proposing that numbers and letters would lead you “out” of your inner city to Elysian suburbs. Instead, “Sesame Street” suggested that learning might merely make our days more bearable, more interesting, funnier. It encouraged us, above all, to be nice to our neighbors and to cultivate the safer pleasures that take the edge off — taking baths, eating cookies, reading.

I agree. I'd be very interested in getting this DVD, showing it to my children, and explaining all there is to explain about the world in which I, my sister and my friends grew up. A world without peanut butter allergies, Asperger's disorder, fear of crossing the street, or motorized scooters. A world where the most prized possession a kid could have was a bike with a banana seat, not a Nintendo WII.

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