Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Early Sesame Street: Not suitable for younger or more sensitive viewers?

And I know what you're thinking: Some smear has been launched against a beloved children's show by some right-wing fundamentalist a la the late Jerry Falwell vs. Tinky Winky Teletubby.

But no! No right wing conspiracy is involved, at least not according to this article from the New York Times Magazine (genuflection optional). According to the linked article, the warning about early "Sesame Street" episodes comes direct from the very people who produce and market "Sesame Street" today!

Virginia Heffernan's story for the magazine quotes the warning label on the new release of the first two volumes of the show: "These early 'Sesame Street' episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of today’s preschool child."

And there are some who claim that today's children aren't wrapped in cotton wool.

But surely they must be protected from Cookie Monster... eating cookies. In one scene (a parody of the old "Masterpiece Theater") he eats a pipe.

(Oh the humanity!)

Heffernan says that "Sesame Street" executive producer Carol-Lynn Parente cited the pipe bit as a particular example of why these old shows are "unsuitable for toddlers in 2007." And, of course, there's Oscar the Grouch. "On the first episode," Heffernan writes, "Oscar seems irredeemably miserable — hypersensitive, sarcastic, misanthropic. (Bert, too, is described as grouchy; none of the characters, in fact, is especially sunshiney except maybe Ernie, who also seems slow.)" Heffernan quotes Parente's assessment: "We might not be able to create a character like Oscar now."

And I checked. Honest. I made sure this was really on the New York Times website -- because -- I thought (and you make think also if you read the linked article) -- that this was something that really belongs in The Onion.


katherine. said...

oh geezzzz.

genuflect is not the gesture which comes to mind.

Jeni said...

Puleeze! They have got to be kidding! Sesame Street to harsh? Ridiculous. All three of my kids learned so much through watching Sesame Street and now, my grandkids are doing the same. Leave those characters alone please. Kids need to learn that there really are some people in the world like Oscar on his bad days but it's nice to see they teach Oscar a bit here and there about better behavior too then.

Dave said...

I get the Sunday NYT actual paper; but, didn't read the Magazine until about an hour ago. You wrote what I thought.

Cliff said...

And I guess that everybody thought that Big Bird was smoking whatever was in Cookie Monster's pipe when he said he was talking to Snuffy, whom everybody else thought he was a figment of Big Bird's imagination.

What about Bert and Ernie's relationship?

Lahdeedah said...

I read the article.

...and promptly netflixed Sesame Street Old School. I will show it to my preschoolers, and I bet they will love it.

You see, I loved Sesame Street, with all it's cranky characters and so on and so forth.

My sons don't like Sesame Street. My friend's daughter doesn't like it either. She says her daugher likes grouchy, cranky, and moody characters.

So after reading this article and laughing at the absurdity of it, (what, are our kids somehow more delicate and fragile?) we decided to conduct an experiment, to see if our kids, who don't like today's sesame street (they never even liked Elmo's world) liked our mean, hard, cold, cranky, grouchy sesame street.

The Curmudgeon said...

Jeni -- Oscar modeled bad behavior?

Ladeedah -- I'll bet your kids do like it.

74wixygrad -- Yes, the article notes that now -- in the current Sesame Street -- everyone can see Big Bird's imaginary friend. What kind of "imaginary" friend is that?

But don't you be hatin' on Bert and Ernie.

Quick trivia contest: Name the movie that (I really believe but can not prove) inspired the names of the Bert and Ernie characters. What's the movie and who were Bert and Ernie in it?

Cliff said...

I remember watching with my chilren when everybody else saw Snuffy for the first time.

Very heartwarming.

Was also watching when Luis, Maria, and Gordon explained to Big Bird that Mr. Hooper died.

I am so glad my children are grown.