by Kimberly Grams
I just learned that original episodes of Sesame Street are out on DVD (Volume 2 was released in November). They come with a warning: “These early ‘Sesame Street’ episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of today’s preschool child.” This is a joke, right? This is the show that taught me to READ. By kindergarten, I could read any book they threw at me. Why the warning? So, I did a little research.
Back then kids rode bikes – with no helmets! Yeah, I know, it’s safer with a helmet. But now kids can’t even SEE someone riding without a helmet. How come kids don’t need a helmet for the playground, or sledding, or at the skating rink? Back in the day, no one wore a helmet. I only had one concussion (tubing on an icy hill). So today, helmets for any activity where they might fall on their heads. And let’s wrap them in bubble wrap. OK, my kids DO have helmets, which they wear (sometimes) when they scooter –they don’t even ride bikes. When we were kids we rode our bikes everywhere. My kids are 10 and 11, but they don’t go anywhere on their own because I’m much more worried about some freak grabbing them.
And that brings up another Sesame Street “Old School” moment. Gordon befriends a little girl and brings her back to meet his wife, Susan, and get a treat. OK, I can see why you’d have red flags on this one – don’t talk to strangers. Back then no one thought that scene was weird. Should today’s kids be watching this?
Reality check. THIS was the conversation I had to have with my girls, after a 15-year old newspaper carrier was murdered in our town. A man in a car with a gun approached her on her 5 a.m. route. She was afraid, so she got in. I told my daughters that even though this is unlikely to happen to them, if someone with a gun ever approaches them, they should run away (in a zig-zag) and yell. The person probably WON’T shoot at you – people will hear and they will get caught. IF they do shoot at you, they will probably miss. If they hit you, it will hurt, but you’ll probably survive. If you get in that car, you will be DEAD. Yeah, I’m SO worried about them watching old episodes of Sesame Street.
When Sesame Street premiered we had about 4 channels. When Big Bird was on, he was the only game in town. EVERYBODY watched. We weren’t all permanently damaged. In my research, an article quoted a parent as saying “What did they do to us?” Are you serious? They’re now blaming childhood obesity on Cookie Monster. Yep, a puppet yelling “Cookies! Um, num, num, num, num!” and spewing crumbs is responsible. It couldn’t POSSIBLY be the gazillion commercials for junk food. Cookie Monster is also in trouble for smoking (and eating) a pipe during a spoof called “Monsterpiece Theater”. Cookie Monster was funny. I don’t recall anyone suddenly craving a pipe for breakfast.
Other evils of early Sesame Street? Oscar is grouchy. He has no ambition and no one is treating his obvious depression. It used to be that Big Bird was the only one to ever see Snuffleupagus. Why is Big Bird hallucinating? Now EVERYONE can see Snuffie, and Big Bird won’t have to go to rehab. Don’t even get me started on Bert and Ernie. To keep the modern child safe from the horrors of 1960’s/’70’s Sesame Street, scenes have been deleted, altered, and the whole enchilada slapped with an adult-only label.
I’m more worried about consumerism than I am about a giant yellow bird’s imaginary friend. Let’s talk about Elmo, shall we? I’m not anti-Elmo. I’m irked by what they did with Elmo outside of Sesame Street. I had a LOT of stuffed animals when I was growing up, but when did we reach the point where we need 50 different kinds of Elmos? Not for collecting mind you, but animatronic ones that DO stuff. It started with “Tickle Me” Elmo and went downhill from there. My youngest daughter used her actual imagination with the single, small stuffed Elmo she had – and she survived without even one Elmo that laughed, sang, or did the Macarena!
I find THAT more offensive than anything I remember from my era of Sesame Street. Something else offensive? We’re watching Nick Jr., the morning block of shows especially for preschoolers. Mine were older, but there was no school and we were checking something out. During the commercials, there was an ad for an MTV award shows with clips of famous people – and one of them says the word “slut”. They showed it about 10,000 times. In what universe is that OK? I banned Nick until after the awards, kept an eye on the commercials and wrote an email complaining (no response).
Is this a rant? Maybe. I think I’m almost done now. Pop culture influences the world and vice versa, and the world has changed. I usually like to have a point in these articles, and this time I’m not sure I do. It made me sad to see how the world has changed, mad at the PC police, and generally gave me a headache. I could say some things about the old Adam, sin in the world, etc., but I’ll leave that to the theologians. All this thinking about the state of the world has made my brain hurt.
I can’t wait to Netflix “Sesame Street: Old School”. There are lots of things from the 60’s and 70’s that I’d never let my kids do now. I wouldn’t let them play in a construction zone, but when we watch it, couldn’t I just say, “That’s not safe”? I actually watch stuff with my kids and then talk about it. Instead of being labeled “adults only”, they should be viewed with kids, maybe slightly older than preschool, as a tool to talk about how the world has changed. It’ll be nostalgic, educational and fun. I want my kids to be safe, but do we really need to drain ALL the fun out of EVERYTHING? Cookie Monster, rock on!
Kim Grams is a writer and pastor’s wife who lives in Scottsbluff, NE. A dancer and an avid reality TV viewer, she has also written So You Think You Can Dance? True Confessions of a Former Liturgical Dancer
Created: January 22nd, 2008