Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Today's Delicate Little Flowers

That venerable workhorse of kid's television, Sesame Street, has been released on DVD. For all of us who spent hours watching endless reruns of Bert and Ernie, Snuffalupagus, Big Bird, and the rest in the pre-Elmo age of Sesame Street, this is a fun trip down memory lane.

But the DVDs come with a stern warning that they are for adults wanting to relive their childhood joy, not for children -- the original show is now considered 'inappropriate for current preschoolers'. Huh? "For Grown-ups only".

Apparently, Oscar is too depressed and grouchy to expose delicate little children to, and Cookie Monster promotes obesity and dangerous eating habits (sometimes he ate the plate!) and Big Bird was delusional -- he was the only one to see Snuffleupagus for years. Adults befriended children (stranger danger!) and that odd relationship between Bert and Ernie is too difficult to explain to young ones nowadays. Those early episodes could damage the tender little flowers that are modern preschoolers, according to the uber-protective bunch responsible for Sesame Street today.

How many people here -- from 1969 on -- who watched this every single day ever actually emulated Cookie Monster? How many of us tried to eat the furniture? How many of us were plunged into depression because Oscar was crabby? Go ahead, raise your hands. I'm sure as many as tried to strap ourselves to rockets and cross the grand canyon or dropped anvils on our sister's heads like Wiley Coyote. It seems a few parents out there aren't too clear on the concept of television fantasy vs real-world behavior. I don't remember any kids having those problems (well, I supposed a few thought a kitchen-towel cap could let them fly like Superman)

The Guardian in the UK has expressed this very well -- with a sort of bemused horror that Sesame Street is now a dangerous influence.
It's not the psychedelic nature of the programme in its 70s incarnation that worries, but the behaviour it might encourage. Children dancing in the street! Grown men reading storybooks to kids - for no apparent reason!
Does anyone else think that this is utterly ridiculous? I never realized that children today need to be so carefuly swaddled. When, exactly, will they be exposed to anything that is not Perfect and Sanitized? Are parents no longer capable of talking with their kids about things that are different?

I'm really boggled by the desire (which seems to be peculiarly rooted here in the US) to keep children from learning about or integrating into the normal, ordinary world -- where there are conflicts, difficult situations, chores, consequences, and, well, a ton of people who don't have sunshine streaming out their...well, you know. It's as if everyone believes that a child exposed to a negative "model" will instantly and completely absorb that message to the exclusion of any other. That certainly explains the wrap-em-in-cotton-wool mentality that makes the current producer of Sesame Street say that they probably couldn't even have a character like Oscar the Grouch anymore. That just might be the most depressing thing I've heard in a long time.

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