[Marxism] Clear signs of capitalist decay: the decline of Sesame Street
M. Junaid Alam
junaidalam1 at gmail.com
Tue Aug 15 13:49:37 MDT 2006
JOEL STEIN Joel Stein: Elmo Is an Evildoer The self-obsessed Sesame Street
Muppet is destroying all that is holy on children's TV.
August 15, 2006
ELMO REFUSED to be interviewed for this column. I consider this to be a
supreme act of cowardice. And it doesn't surprise me one bit. Elmo is an
Yes, I know that children love Elmo. But children are idiots. That's why we
don't let them have jobs. Could you imagine an office full of children?
They'd spend all day telling dumb jokes and talking about their poop. It
would be like it was before women entered the workplace.
"Sesame Street" — which still has sharp, funny writing — is being destroyed
by idiot cuteness. Not only is the patronizing, baby-talking Elmo usurping
most of the hour, but "Sesame Street" — which debuted its 37th season Monday
— added its first new female Muppet in 13 years: the sparkly haired,
tutu-wearing, button-nosed, pink-skinned fairy goddaughter Abby Cadabby. Her
shaky magic skills get her in situations she needs to get bailed out of,
like the anti-"Bewitched."
Plus, she's got that creepy, throaty, little-girl Lindsay Lohan kind of
voice, and a Paris Hilton-esque catchphrase: "That's so magic." When I
watched "Sesame Street" in the '70s, the human cast and the Muppets were
quirky adults who didn't talk down to me with baby voices. Now the human
cast gets almost no airtime, and the show is dominated by Elmo, Baby Bear
and, now, Abby Cadabby — preschoolers enamored by their own adorable
The lesson they teach — in opposition to Oscar, Big Bird, Grover or Bert —
is that bland neediness gets you stuff much more easily than character. We
are breeding a nation of Anna Nicole Smiths.
I am not the only one who hates Elmo. Vernon Chatman and John Lee, the
creators of MTV2's dark "Sesame Street" parody, "Wonder Showzen," think the
evil red one is destroying the show.
"Elmo doesn't grow. People show him something and he laughs. He doesn't
learn a lesson," says Lee. "It's the exact opposite of what old 'Sesame
Street' used to do. Elmo has been learning the same lesson his whole life,
which is that Elmo likes Elmo."
Chatman, who refers to Elmo as the Jar Jar Binks of "Sesame Street," worries
that Elmo teaches kids to care only about themselves.
"Elmo is just a baby-voiced, self-obsessed character who is only concerned
with Elmo," says Lee. "He just passively observes things: 'Elmo is looking
at a sandwich. Elmo is eating a sandwich. Elmo is crapping out the sandwich
and writing his name on the wall with it.' " The last celebrity to so
obsessively refer to himself in the third person was Richard Nixon.
Whereas Count Von Count markets math and Oscar markets the acceptability of
negative emotions, Elmo, brilliantly, just markets Elmo, leading him to be
the show's cash cow, or whatever misshapen animal he's supposed to be.
I question not only Abby Cadabby but all of Elmo's associates. You may
recall that Elmo testified before Congress about music education. But you
may not remember who requested Elmo's appearance: Rep. Randy "Duke"
Cunningham, now in jail for taking at least $2.4 million in bribes. I'm not
implying that Elmo has taken dirty money, but these are the kind of people
Elmo surrounds himself with.
I understand that "Sesame Street" has to compete in a Nickelodeon-Disney
Channel-Wiggles-Pixar universe. In fact, the new episodes start with "
'Sesame Street' is brought to you by the following … " and then, instead of
gently mocking consumerism by listing letters and numbers, they actually
show real spots for McDonald's, Beaches resorts, Pampers and
EverydayKidz.com — the last of which apparently helps children spell only if
they want to be rappers.
I desperately don't want the show to go away, so I know they can't afford to
run the "Elmo accidentally drank bleach and died" episode. Instead, they
need to simply take Elmo and his buddies and give them their own hourlong
show for the idiot spawn. Then put Luis, Gordon and the cool Muppets on
their own half-hour "Classic Sesame" for the kids who will one day actually
contribute to our society.
Whichever of the two shows you watched would serve as a convenient litmus
test for the rest of your life. "Which 'Sesame Street' did you watch?" will
be code on college applications, Internet dating and job applications. Blue
and red states will be divided not by presidential choices, but by Grover
If we can't save all the kids, let's at least save the ones who can master
speaking in first-person. The rest we'll use for reality TV stars.
M. Junaid Alam
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