Sunday, November 18, 2007

PC Run Amok

You know, I'm all for sensitivity of language and respect for other cultures.  Really.  I've ranted before about the casual use of the "r" word and its derivatives such as "fantard."

But when you have to "warn" that the earlier seasons of Sesame Street, now available on DVD, are for adults only because Alastair Cookie (of Monsterpiece Theater) smokes and then gobbles -- yes, GOBBLES -- a pipe, and because Oscar the Grouch is...well, grouchy, that's just insane.

I mean, for one thing, people should realize that the world was different in the late 60s.  Sesame Street has always very forthright with its audience -- and, I think, its motives.  It's had characters with a variety of disabilities, including physical disabilities, Down syndrome, and, if any Deaf readers will pardon my lumping it in here, Deaf characters.

After the September 11th terrorist attacks, Sesame Street took it upon itself to reassure children by having the characters deal with a fire and then visit a fire station.

That kind of political correctness is fine.  In both cases, they're presenting the world as it is -- there are people in the world with disabilities and the only way to build comfort (let alone mutual respect) is to show people with disabilities participating in society.  In the case of September 11, it happened, and to pretend it didn't is ridiculous.  In fact, to discuss it (or, rather, allude to it) while reassuring children is way better than having them see snatches of news coverage or -- for kids in New York -- to look outside and see smoldering ruins and wonder if they will be next.

Complaining that Oscar the Grouch is too grouchy is just beyond comprehension.  He, like all the other characters, is an exaggeration.

As for Alastair Cookie....  Okay, so he smoked a pipe.

Here's an idea.  Talk about it.  Say, "Boy, that wasn't a good idea.  He ATE the pipe.  You know what's a worse idea?  Smoking it.  Smoking is very bad for you.  I wonder what Alastair Cookie would do if someone asked him to stop?"

Or, you know, talk about the story...all of which I remember fondly.

It may be obvious from this that I was a Sesame Street fan in my formative years.

And I was.  I'm fairly certain I learned phonics from Big Bird's alphabet song.  I loved Kermit's news reports, and I ADORED the sketches where Grover was a waiter.

I watched Sesame Street in the early 80s, when Grover sang with Bernadette Peters, when everybody thought Snuffy was Big Bird's imaginary friend, and -- get this -- before Elmo.

So while some of this rant may be coming from my undeniable nostalgia, I just have to ask: what on Earth are these people thinking?

Kids can tell -- or should be taught, either way -- reality from fantasy.  Alastair Cookie is fantasy.

I never looked at Alastair Cookie and thought, "Oh, good, let's go try EATING a PIPE."

(I mean...really?)

I never thought mummies in Egypt actually walked around, nor did I ever think you could get fish to jump willingly to their doom just by crooning, "Here, fishy fishy fishy."

I grew up with songs like "These are the People in Your Neighborhood," "I Don't Want to Live on the Moon," and "I Love Trash."

And, get this, I never got the idea to collect trash.

Gosh, I must have had parents who told me it was a bad idea.

I betcha they told me not to eat pipes too.  (Well, okay, I like to think I didn't need to be told that.)

Imagine that.

And, in case you're wondering, Patrick grew up on Sesame Street too.  And to prove it, I quote here the first ten pages or so of the masterpiece of early childhood fiction, Ernie's Big Mess.

"Ernie and Bert are best friends.  They live together.  Bert is neat.  Ernie is messy.  Sometimes Ernie is very messy.  Then Bert gets mad.  'Ernie, come here!' Bert shouts.  'Look at the mess you have made!'

'Okay, Bert,' says Ernie.  'I am coming.'  Ernie jumps out of the tub.  Splash!  He splashes water on the floor.  Drip, drip.  He drips water on the rug.

'Ernie!' Bert shouts.  'You are making a bigger mess!'

'But Bert,' Ernie says, 'you told me to look at the mess I made.'"

For the record, he never tired to eat a pipe.  Or smoke one.

Also for the record, my favorite Sesame Street books were There's a Monster at the End of This Book and Gover and the Everything in the Whole Wide World Museum.

Oh, and I like Oscar the Grouch just the way he is, thank you very much.

1 comment:

Amie said...

I adore Sesame Street. It's the hour of tv Gentry chooses every morning. I appreciate the variety and sillyness and he learns a lot from it. And if parents aren't prepared to talk to their kids about smoking and other such things they better not venture out into the big bad world...because like it or not you just might encounter something that may reguire a conversation. parenting is weird that way.