I’m going to do something a little different today. I’m moving from books to T.V (just for this post). First of all: has anybody ever answered the people who keep asking “Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street?” and given them correct directions?
Sesame Street has been around since 1969, so it’s only natural that it has made some impact in the lives of at least a few people.
It’s taught us how to count. It taught us that cookies are good and that it starts with the letter C. I’ll never forget Ernie and Bert, the two guys living in the same house, doing everything together. No, they weren’t gay (although that probably would be something Sesame Street would do, in the 1970’s, when everyone was still very much prejudiced against the LGBTQ community even to have Bert and Ernie living together was a problem); they were homosocial despite the backlash they received and the stigma that came along with it. Even though Ernie annoyed Bert, they were still friends. Friendship is about appreciation; and being glad to be with the other person. (Even if their jokes don’t make sense.)
We are reminded that Sesame Street is a show- and that like most shows it is on to make money. There are books and toys marketed featuring certain Sesame Street characters: and Elmo even got his own spin off show called Elmo’s World.
My mother says that she remembers Snuffleupagus being a character that only Big Bird could see. She said that it used to make her mad, she would shout at the T.V “He’s RIGHT THERE!” when nobody else would acknowledge him on the screen but Big Bird and herself. They’ve changed it since then; everyone can see him-but I think making him “imaginary” helped kids to see that imagination can seem like reality. It can be really helpful at times to use our imagination, and don’t be afraid to use it simply because people say it’s “not real” because the imagination is where some of the best ideas come from to solve problems.
In 1982, one of the actors on Sesame Street died. Instead of pushing the dirt under the rug and giving no explanation for the arrival of a replacement, Sesame Street did an extraordinary thing. They made an episode about Big Bird finding out about the death of the character and had the human characters explain it to him. Aired on Thanksgiving in 1983 so that adults and children could discuss the topic afterwards, it didn’t dumb down the content or try to ignore it. Death happens, and it needs to be recognized as a natural thing. It’s sad and unexpected sometimes, but it’s okay to be confused and sad, and miss the person.
Recently, Sesame Street has added another interesting twist to their show. Sesame Street does introduce controversial topics, but also firmly shows us that just because things may be controversial to talk about doesn’t make it bad. Being open is the best thing to do with tough topics like death, and incarceration. Sesame Street has always been about community, and I think that it’s been around for a long time because it’s one of the few shows that creates an inclusive environment and isn’t afraid to admit that children don’t live in a plastic bubble and are affected when things happen in a community.
IMAGES (in order of appearance)
- Classic Sesame Street- Episode 276- Big Bird Meets Snuffy. Prod. jtomally9681 Youtube. Youtube. 1 May 2011 Web. 25 June 2013
- Big Bird Learns about Death Prod. Barry Purcell Youtube. Youtube 16 February 2011. Web. 25 June 2013
- Ortiz, Eric. “Sesame Street introduces first-ever muppet with a parent in prison.” News Article New York Daily News. 19 June 2013 Web. 25 June 2013