Sesame Street: Timeless Childhood Fun or Dated Hippy Dippy/Commie Pinko Propaganda?

by anna on September 5, 2008

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So, Mini and I were watching Sesame Street this morning. His first time. He appears to be a fan.
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Yeah, yeah–I know we aren’t, strictly speaking, supposed to be letting him watch TV yet. I know this because the smug pediatrician (who has no children) told me that TV watching before the age of 2 has been linked to ADD.
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When she told me this, I was terrified at the thought of giving up TV indefinitely. And only marginally afraid that Mini would develop ADD as a direct result of TV exposure. So I quickly entered the bargaining stage.
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“What if he doesn’t really watch it, he just plays when it’s on and we’re watching it?” I asked. “Even the ambient noise is enough to have an effect upon his attention span and ability to concentrate.” She replied. Blast it.
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But, yes, I grudgingly agreed to try to minimize the time Mini was around the TV, whether watching it or not. Even though this did give rise to other questions, viz.:
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  1. If ambient noise can have an effect upon his attention span, then should we not play music while he is playing, either?;
  2. But they say music is good for babies, right?;
  3. Does that apply to all kinds of music, or just classical?; and
  4. What would be the protocol on listening to music, then–have him strapped to his high chair, staring at the wall, whilst listening to music, so he can really concentrate on his misery?

But I digress.
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As anyone who has ever had a toddler knows, it’s a monumental task to get ready in the morning when someone keeps hitting you over the head with a plastic golf club. Or locking himself in the bathroom and sticking his fingers underneath the door, inviting you to grab them, and then pulling them away quickly. And then laughing hysterically. And then continuing the laugh, well past the boundaries of sincerity, as if he were practicing his laugh for an imaginary callback as Laughing Toddler scheduled later in the day.
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And this is true even when that person, the former-golf-club-and-now-remote wielder, is impossibly cute in his new, just-a-little-bit-too-big-for-him shorts and ooh-scary-tiger t-shirt.
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So you turn on the TV while you try to take a quick shower, and hope that the damage you are doing him can be undone in a couple therapy sessions later on. And how bad can PBS for kids be? He might even learn something!
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So this morning, after I was finishing up with the Blo ‘n’ Go, I heard the strains of an eerily familiar song from the late seventies/early eighties.
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Wheeeeeere’s mycookieeeeee?
Helpmefindmy cookieeeee
Wheeeeeeere’s mycookieeeee?
Helpmefindmy cookieeeee–PLEASE

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This is a song I used to own on vinyl. I know this not only from a faint memory of this album cover being stacked among The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in the armoire that housed the stereo of my youth, but also because I made a couple mix tapes during high school that featured this hit. Oddly enough, I don’t think the recipients of these masterpieces of audio entertainment necessarily found the inclusion of muppet pop to be as droll as I did. I guess “Me Lost Me Cookie at the Disco” by Cookie Monster didn’t translate as well in the late eighties/early nineties grunge rock scene, but I thought it juxtaposed nicely with Alice ‘n’ Chains. [shrug]

[singlepic=153,440,330,,right]Though it certainly never occurred to me before, I think this may well be the first music video. And if it’s not the first music video, well then it must be the first music video to use muppets exclusively. In the wake of the success of Sesame Street Disco and its earlier predecessor, Sesame Street Fever, Cookie Monster had a whole George Clinton/Funkadelic side gig going on there for a while. The seventies were a weird time, but I’m sure that has been covered by somebody before.

This was released in 1979, when I was six and disco was all the rage. But apparently, they are still running it today. I’m not sure how much of a concept of disco per se I had at six, but I’m certain that Mini and his contemporaries have absolutely no concept of it, since nobody goes to discos anymore except in French language textbooks. But I guess the muppetry is timeless, even if Mini was far more interested in Elmo and Grover than in Cookie and his backup dancers, The Girls.

Mini showed some interest in Bert and Ernie, who should be–if they aren’t already–the topic of a dissertation somewhere. I mean, it’s cool with me if they are supposed to be a gay couple. But it would be nice to know. I mean, if they’re based on Felix and Oscar of The Odd Couple, then there should be some explanation about the living circumstances, no? Because otherwise, then it seems to me that the makers of Sesame Street hoped to normalize, with Bert and Ernie, the concept of grown men living together and sharing a room with twin beds. Where have I seen this before? Twin beds . . . like on I Love Lucy . . . but they were divorced, only pretending to be married . . . so confused, I grow weary.

Like when J.K. Rowling said, yeah, Dumbledore is gay, and he was in love with Grindlewald, before he turned evil–a lot of people were so disappointed. Or they thought, that’s just an after-the-fact politicization of a beloved character, and it didn’t need to be done. But to them I say, hey, we don’t need to know that Harry is hetero, either–and yet we do, right? We are never told explicitly that he is, but we know because we heard about him kissing whatever the hell that Ravenclaw chick’s name was in book four or five or something. Well, it’s not like people aren’t going to totally FREAK OUT if J.K. Rowling featured a gay sex scene with Dumbledore . . . I mean, what is she supposed to do? Where was I? Oh yes, Bert.
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Couple things. Bert needs to go to the Eyebrow King stat. I never realized he literally has a monobrow before, and I think this is clumsy characterization, frankly, because I know Bert–and Bert would NOT allow his grooming to go unchecked. If either of the two of them would let this eyebrow situation happen, it would clearly be Ernie. In fact, if I had to find a mirror to Bert’s character from contemporary “reality,” it would be Jeff Lewis:
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And, my friends, all of this goes to show you that you should be careful about how much time you spend in graduate school, lest you find yourself, at some point, incapable of turning the deconstructor switch back to “off.”

{ 12 comments }

HeatherPride September 5, 2008 at 11:48 am

That is so funny! I have to admit, I sort of enjoyed re-discovering Sesame Street when my son got to the age where he could watch it. I was surprised I still knew some of the songs (Ladybug picnic, anyone?)!

And don’t you just love those “shorts”? I couldn’t wait to buy shorts for my kid that actually came above the knee! They make all of those 9 month – 18 month shorts so LONG! Hello! Capris on boys? No.

J. September 5, 2008 at 1:34 pm

Hmmmm…how does your pediatrician explain the popularity of those Baby Einstein dvds? Are all those parents hoping for little genius’ actually going to end up with a bunch of Ritalin-popping monsters? And, frankly, the young people I know who take meds for their ADD are really low-energy without it.
Also, I can’t remember where I read it, but there was this funny post about what an asshole Ernie actually is, how Bert is really tolerant to put up with all of his irritating bullshit. So they are actually a lot like a couple.

anna September 5, 2008 at 1:37 pm

Yeah, I’m not sure how Baby Einstein works into that . . . as you can see, there are a lot of holes in the theory, what with “ambient noise” being created by everything, including the white noise they deliberately pumped into the libraries at my university to *help* concentration.

I do know that when he watches and gets totally mesmerized by something, it makes me think, uh, maybe we should go and play outside or something.

Shonda Little September 5, 2008 at 4:31 pm

I’m telling you not to let Mini watch it, not because of what it might do to his development, but because it is the first step to him dominating the television. Take it from me, sister, the only female in a house of 3 males ( 1 Dad, 2 of HI minis), you will never get to watch Project Runway or any of your other fave shows if you turn this kid onto Seseame Street.

Linds September 5, 2008 at 4:38 pm

Oh, what a trip down memory lane! I had a record of Sesame Street songs that I loved when I was younger… I tried to find out which one it was by looking up “sesame street record”, but damn! I gave up after the second loooooong page of album listings! I really had no idea; you can be sure that if I’d known when I was a kid, I’d have driven my folks crazy asking for more!

PauvrePlume September 5, 2008 at 5:33 pm

Ok, I don’t have kids (though I *am* going to become an aunt for the first time in about 4 months from now!), so I’m still having heart palpatations and mild seizures at the thought of having to go without TV for even a NIGHT. Which brings me to the following: Jeff Lewis seriously might be the most hilarious person on TV. I am considering writing to him and Jenny to see if they’d like a French-speaking professional student to maybe school their dogs or something. I mean, he pays for them to get massages and sh*t, so it’s worth a shot. Anyway, yeah, Bert has a serious unibrow. And I hear what you’re saying about Ernie being more of the “unibrow kind,” but really, it’s not like Bert’s sportin’ an unkempt unibrow… it’s tweezed to Edward Scissorhands perfection. So… I’ve always just accepted it as an appropriate extension of his Bertness.

anna September 5, 2008 at 6:23 pm

I want to hire Jeff Lewis to redo my house. Except I don’t want to deal with him at all . . . I want to deal with his nice ex-boyfriend business partner.

My Buddy Mimi September 5, 2008 at 7:28 pm

We rented the very first Sesame Street season from Netflix. Hilarious! And of course there is the warning at the beginning that it may not be suitable for today’s children…

JoeGirl September 6, 2008 at 10:45 am

Of all the kids’ shows my boys watch today, and have ever watched (they are now 7 and 2), Sesame Street by FAR tops the list for sheer brilliance in writing, character development, story lines, puppetry (muppetry) and music. Long Live Sesame Street.

As an aside, Jim Henson would die a thousand bloody deaths if he knew what they’ve done with his name since. Bear in the Big Blue House is oookayyy, but The Hoobs? And there’s a new one coming out now — disgraceful.

And I forgive Bert’s unibrow too.

PS: Thanks, Anna, for visiting Joe Girl! I do know of ColourLovers, but frankly find it a bit chaotic over there ;)

PauvrePlume September 6, 2008 at 6:12 pm

ps) did you see that my future boss Jeff Lewis is going to be a judge on that “Top Design” show on Bravo?!?

Mary Anne September 7, 2008 at 5:43 pm

One word. Barney. Don’t go there. I’m still not quite the same some 7 years later….

Kayjayoh September 10, 2008 at 7:46 pm

Not only do I remember that song (having also owned that album in my youth) I still know all the damn words, it seems.

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