Tuesday, November 20


According to the New York Times (article here), the release of the original first two seasons of PBS's landmark series, Sesame Street on DVD is issued with a warning to parents - the show is not suitable for toddlers.

I had to read the headline a second time, out of disbelief. What? I thought. The show designed for preschool kids, the show I grew up on, not suitable for toddlers? Why the hell not?

The cynical New York paper listed many snarky reasons why the show might not fly with youth of today. New York and cynical are redundant, I realize but this article turned jaded sarcasm into a new art form... suggesting the new, squeaky clean world of "Prozac Elmo" was a different world from the original show.

But the article also (thankfully) interviewed producers from the show, who gave more reasonable (but not that reasonable) examples. In one scene, Cookie Monster smokes, the eats a pipe. The producers were afraid they were promoting smoking. A little paranoid, but not the kind of paranoia that leads to unreasonable artistic censorship.

And finally, we move into over-protective parent land: objections to Cookie Monster's cookie-only diet, Oscar the Grouch is too grouchy and the matter of Big Bird hallucinations. Yes, that's what I said: hallucinations. Prior to 1985, Big Bird was the only one on Sesame Street able to see Snuffalupagus, but that was later changed.

I admire the PBS producers attempt to protect children, but wonder if we've crossed into dangerous territory. The issues under debate here are questionable: there are far more important issues impacting our children today. But easy fights like this allow lazy parenting - the responsiblity transfers from parents to the media, yet the decline continues.

I haven't seen those old 1970s episodes since I was in diapers, so I can't really pass judgment. But I will say this strikes me as the first step down a slippery slope.

No comments: