The Moon Sometimes Looks Like a C, But You Can't Eat That

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Cookie Monster reforms:

Alarmed at the rates of obesity among young people, the children's programme Sesame Street is embarking on a drive to educate its audience about the benefits of healthy eating. As part of the project, some of the show's favourite characters are getting nothing less than a makeover—Cookie Monster is going on a diet while Elmo has started professing a love for exercise.

The producers of Sesame Street, which kicks off its 36th season on public television in the US today, said each episode will now start with a health tip about nutrition, exercise, hygiene and rest….

As part of the project, Cookie Monster, who used to sing that "C is for cookie", will be telling viewers that biscuits are occasional treats. He now sings: "A cookie is a sometimes food."

I've got nothing against the message, you understand. And Sesame Street has always had a streak of social engineering to it, so it's a little late to start complaining that it's gone PC. But since when is Cookie Monster supposed to be a role model? Are there really a bunch of plus-sized toddlers out there who've been looking up to the furry blue muppet, modeling their lifestyles on his, using him to validate their eating habits? I always thought he was supposed to be a loveable but vaguely obnoxious figure, a little too obsessive for comfort. (Or, in the words of my five-year-old self: "I don't like people like Cookie Monster and the Count.")

Putting Cookie Monster on a diet is like giving Oscar prozac. A doctor might prescribe it, but a writer should know better.

Update: Turns out the initial press reports weren't entirely accurate. Cookie Monster doesn't sing "A Cookie Is a Sometimes Food," or at least he doesn't sing lead; it's sung to him, with the monster merely adding little background interjections. And at the end of the skit he finds an excuse to eat a cookie anyway. Good for him.

NEXT: How Deep Is My Silicone Valley?

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  1. Sheez, next thing you know Bert and Ernie will start dating…

  2. And I don’t mean dating each other…

  3. Does this mean Oscar will stop living in garbage?

    Actually I always thought he was our generation’s precusor to Larry David.

  4. Only anti-Semites don’t like The Count.

    The most striking SS development is the absolute Fonzie that Elmo has pulled over the whole show. The real loser in all of this has been Grover, who is relegated to a walk-on role of about 90 seconds, eerily reminiscent of the “Chrissy Minutes” Suzanne Somers was obliged to do while trying to get out of her Three’s Company contract. Watching new Sesame Streets you would never guess that Grover was once the heart of the show. Meanwhile, Elmo gets at least a sketch and a musical number, in addition to Elmo’s World, his own Murder of Gonzago-type show within a show. He also gets the lion’s share of the ancillary product spoils-Cinderelmo, The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland, etc. Just who is Elmo banging to get all these favors?

    I can’t endorse this new version of Cookie Monster, but the reality is it doesn’t really matter because Cookie Monster is barely in the show at all anymore.

  5. The classic account of the Grover/Elmo rivalry is here.

    And as long as we’re bitching, they really ought to go back to the original theme music.

  6. Five! Five Comments! Hahahahahaha.

  7. I mean Seven! Seven Comments! *thunderclap*

  8. Tim,

    Well, it’s good to see your TV criticism isn’t reserved solely for EWTN… 😉

  9. Well, well, well. I for one plan on doing more than just bitching on this blog. I’m boycotting their sponsors.

    That’s right, from now on I’m not patronizing the number 3 or the letter L.

  10. correction:

    We**, we**, we**. I for one p*an on doing more than just bitching on this b*og. I’m boycotting their sponsors.

    That’s right, from now on I’m not patronizing the number * or the *etter *.

  11. Healthy Cookie Monster is like sober Barney. Unsustainable from a writing perspective, unacceptable from a viewing perspective.

  12. When Sesame Street started, the three to five year olds that I babysat were savy enough to understnad that Cookie Monster’s behavior was not to be emulated. In fact, despite their own cookie jones’s, they could feel superior to Cookie Monster and his obnoxious behavior.
    I thought that was the whole point.

    Political Correctness will wring the fun out of everything including Sesame Street.

    As for jumping the shark, that happened when Snuffleupagus was changed from Big Bird’s imaginary friend to a character all could see.

  13. “As for jumping the shark, that happened when Snuffleupagus was changed from Big Bird’s imaginary friend to a character all could see.”

    I agree. The entire dramatic tension of Sesame Street rested on the question of whether Mr. Snuffleupagus was real or merely a product of Big Bird’s paranoid schizophrenia.

  14. “The most striking SS development is the absolute Fonzie that Elmo has pulled over the whole show.”

    And if you’ll recall, it all happened because of that friggin’ Tickle-Me-Elmo.

    On a related note:
    http://www.progressiveboink.com/archive/sesamestreet.html

  15. I agree. The entire dramatic tension of Sesame Street rested on the question of whether Mr. Snuffleupagus was real or merely a product of Big Bird’s paranoid schizophrenia.

    HAH! It’s comments like that that make H&R the best comment board in the blogosphere.

    What’s next Ritalin for Elmo?

  16. Jesse Walker: That was a wonderful link to the bittersweet biogroveragraphy. Thank you.

  17. As an “Electric Company” partisan, I feel a bit like a Stones fan at a Beatles concert.

  18. The classic account of the Grover/Elmo rivalry is here.

    I feel the need to record an audio version of this in my VH1 Behind the Music voice.

  19. A Cookie monster that doesn’t eat cookies due to PC pressure???

    What will the “Experts” think of Next?

    I can already see the wheels spinning at PBS…

    Next season – The Count gets a wooden stake through the heart due to pressure from the Christian Right!

    LMAO!

  20. No more, “C is for cookie…that’s good enough for me!”?

    That stinks. 🙁

  21. “C is for carbs, and that’s no good for me…”

  22. Perhaps the Count will be deemed unPC because girls are discriminated against in math and science, and the Count is just a stark reminder of that discrimination.

    Not to mention that the notion of quantifying things is such a Western notion. (At this legions of Chinese scientists, engineers, and mathematicians burst into laughter.)

  23. I do agree that they should add a new character such as a little girl dressed as Madonna used to in a white wedding dress with a cross, carrying a hammer and a stake meant for the Count. They could call her ?Counts Virgin?. They then could have cute little songs about satanic figures like the Count and how to kill them and ones describing just what Virginity really is all from a 7 year old perspective. Wow it could be better than South Park.

  24. Bradford: The Right will only kill off the Count if he starts counting votes.

  25. 1. Sesame Streets exists to teach stuff to kids.

    2. One of the things kids should learn is how to eat right.

    3. Cookie Monster eats stuff.

    So, what is so outrageous about using Cookie Monster to teach kids about eating?

    They should TOTALLY go back to the old theme music.

  26. joe,

    Regarding point 3, more specifically, Cookie Monster eats cookies, hence the name. Maybe they should rename him the Nutrition Monster — though they’ll have to get permission from the current holder of that trademark, John Banzhaf.

    And as many of the contributors have pointed out, the characters on Sesame Street have never been role models. They all have bizarre patterns of behavior that children would be ostracized for emulating.

    I’m sure there are some who would like to see the SS characters become healthy, mature, politically liberal role models, but you’ll find such types few and far between in the history of successful children’s literature. Young children (save perhaps 5-year-old Tim) have a hard time understanding nuanced, abstract ideas, so you need to take things to a ridiculous extreme to make a point.

  27. Actually, crimethink, Cookie Monster eats a lot of other stuff, too, such as letters of the day.

    “And as many of the contributors have pointed out, the characters on Sesame Street have never been role models. They all have bizarre patterns of behavior that children would be ostracized for emulating.”

    Well, yes and no. Kids don’t actually grow up counting random objects and chuckling in a Bela Lugosi voice, but the Count’s behavior does help them to learn counting.

  28. I read an interview with the Sesame Street producers from a few years ago wherein they said that they write Big Bird to be just slightly less intelligent than their average viewer, because understanding other people’s thought processes via their mistakes is an important stage in mental development.

    Cookie Monster is much the same way – the kids laugh down at him. If they want to use him to teach kids a lesson about nutrition, it’d be more entertaining AND less insulting to their intelligence to treat him like the Trix rabbit (but without the species bigotry), and comically thwart his attempts to overdose on junk food.

  29. Cookie monster has, for the last twenty years or so, been the voice model for every Scandanavian satanic heavy metal band.

    COOOKKIEE!!!!

  30. Given the quality of the programming Sesame Street’s creations dependably produce, I don’t think it’s fair to conclude that their future treatments of Cookie Monster will automatically become ham-handed.

  31. Elmo rise mostly has to do with the fact that he’s arguably Sesame Street’s most flavorless, quirk-free, Prozac-ridden character. And thus the character that the show’s spineless producers feel most comforable about marketing on a large scale, whether to sell merchandise or to take market share from that evil purple dinosaur. Like the C-man’s sudden embrace of Dr. Atkins, this is just one more example of the gradual Disneyfication of a once-great kids show.

    joe, I thought Cookie Monster’s educational value came from how, relative to the other characters, he symbolized a Freudian Id gone beserk, and thus acted as a humorous warning sign to kids about letting your passions go completely unchecked (that he’s called Cookie Monster helps clue them in on this). And needless to say, taming his chief passion ruins everything.

  32. “It’s comments like that that make H&R the best comment board in the blogosphere.”

    Thank you! Thank you! I’ll be back for a second show in one hour! Don’t forget to tip your waitperson.

  33. Dave Chapelle says Oscar’s lesson is that it’s ok to ignore the homeless beacuse they’re just a bunchof grouches. He also thinks Snuffalufagus is a heroin junkie.

  34. Eric II, if that were the case, wouldn’t Cookie be shown to suffer consequences? He always looks pretty happy after snarfing down the letter G.

  35. I thought the “warning” came from his general behavior patterns, which I don’t think many kids would be keen to imitate, even as they find some humor in them.

  36. Cookie Monster was totally my role model when I was little, and I’m not fat.

    Of course, my mom only let me have 1 cookie a day regardless of how good my CM impersonation was, so that might have something to do with it….

  37. So, what is so outrageous about using Cookie Monster to teach kids about eating?

    joe, it’s really not about PC run amok. It’s just that they’re taking a favorite cultural icon of our childhoods and totally revamping him. And that brings a tear to my eye 🙁

    Of course, my mom only let me have 1 cookie a day regardless of how good my CM impersonation was, so that might have something to do with it….

    You mean that your mother taking responsibility for your upbringing had a bigger impact than what you saw on TV? Who’d’ve thunk?

  38. throeau, have a little faith. Showing Cookie learing a little about other things to eat doesn’t mean they’re going to turn him into Poochie.

  39. joe, all I’m saying is that I hope they don’t make the Cookie Monster boring.

  40. “It’s comments like that that make H&R the best comment board in the blogosphere.”

    Thank you! Thank you! I’ll be back for a second show in one hour! Don’t forget to tip your waitperson.

    Comment by: SR

    Typical! No thanks or kudos to the straight man.
    But let me tell you this: Ernie would be nowhere without Bert.

  41. This is seriously one of the funniest threads I’ve read on H&R in a long time. Poor Jim Henson. He’s probably rolling over in his grave right now at the personalityless abominations his creations have become.

    Now, a few responses:

    Just who is Elmo banging to get all these favors? – Tim Cavanaugh

    That’s right, from now on I’m not patronizing the number 3 or the letter L.
    -Idiot’s POV

    ROTFL.

    Maybe they should rename him the Nutrition Monster — though they’ll have to get permission from the current holder of that trademark, John Banzhaf. -crimethink

    Don’t give them any ideas, crimethink.

    Elmo rise mostly has to do with the fact that he’s arguably Sesame Street’s most flavorless, quirk-free, Prozac-ridden character. And thus the character that the show’s spineless producers feel most comforable about marketing on a large scale, whether to sell merchandise or to take market share from that evil purple dinosaur. Like the C-man’s sudden embrace of Dr. Atkins, this is just one more example of the gradual Disneyfication of a once-great kids show. ? Eric II

    Sad but true – cartoon characters, puppets, and children’s show figures are no longer written with a definitive personality. There is no character writing in children’s shows anymore, and therefore no humor, wit, human insight, or sympathy/empathy; no real-world analogies for extant people with unique personalities, either (unless there are already brainwashed, bland young people who have modeled themselves on such non-person characters). How unenjoyable. It makes me think of Ned Flanders’ “Bible Jeopardy”, or other lame religious boardgames.

    When Sesame Street started, the three to five year olds that I babysat were savy enough to understnad that Cookie Monster’s behavior was not to be emulated. In fact, despite their own cookie jones’s, they could feel superior to Cookie Monster and his obnoxious behavior.
    I thought that was the whole point. ? NoStar

    NoStar, that’s exactly what I’m talking about. If you don’t treat children like small adults when they are young, and introduce them to analogy, satire, caricature, etc. when they are impressionable, they will never understand these higher (and more amusing, in my opinion) thought faculties.

    Kids don’t actually grow up counting random objects and chuckling in a Bela Lugosi voice, but the Count’s behavior does help them to learn counting. -joe

    Yes they do. What kind of boring childhood did you and your peers lead? Half the fun of watching those shows is picking out your favorite character and impersonating them at whim, regardless of social context or propriety.

    joe, all I’m saying is that I hope they don’t make the Cookie Monster boring. – thoreau

    thoreau,

    It’s already too late. Didn’t you read the post carefully?:

    He now sings: “A cookie is a sometimes food.”

    Awful. Just awful.

  42. If you don’t treat children like small adults when they are young, and introduce them to analogy, satire, caricature, etc. when they are impressionable, they will never understand these higher (and more amusing, in my opinion) thought faculties.

    Sorry for quoting myself, but I have to add something: one of the reasons I loved Sesame Street as a child, in retrospect, is that the characters on the show were often less rational or reasonable than the children watching them. Observing the characters’ hysterics or antics made me feel calm in comparison to them, and watching their illogic only served to reinforce the proper logic and reason in my own head. In a way, it gave me a sense of confidence, to think that these TV personalities knew even less than I did. And it amused me, too.
    The thrust of this is, if you change the characters from fun exaggerations to blatant dictators/authorities on how to live, not only do you take the fun out of learning and watching the show, but you reinforce an authoritarian teaching methodology on very impressionable minds. I can’t see how that would possibly make children more interesting, but I could see that it might make them docile, dull, trite, gullible, witless, and without any notion of irony.

    Kind of sounds like higher education these days, doesn’t it? It sounds to me like the government-funded PBS is leaking its authoritarian teaching ideologies into even preschool-level educational tools. Scary. Scary.

  43. Smacky,
    I am glad you are here to expound and expand on ideas of which my efforts just brush the surface.

  44. smacky said: “…not only do you take the fun out of learning and watching the show, but you reinforce an authoritarian teaching methodology on very impressionable minds.”

    And with my tinfoil hat on, I see that that’s exactly the point. I’ve heard it said before that school is not designed to teach you how to think, but rather to be a good worker, ie “pay attention, sit up straight and face forward, do as you’re told, do your work, take some home with you (homework), etc”. It’s all about authoritarianism, whether we’re talking left/right, liberal/conservative, reub/dem. Those in power want to maintain their power, and that can’t be done if people actually learn to think for themselves. Same reason there’s a war on drugs. It’s all the same reasons: power and money.

  45. I thought elmo was revamped with his own show within a show to compete with Barney for the entertainment of the under 3 year olds.

    S.S. is really designed for ages 4 to 6.

    I think they should just move characters from other culture’s S.S.s to the US street, and send Cookie off to someplace like Israel or China for a wile. He could come back in a couple of years with insights of eating unhealthy snacks of all other cultures.

  46. Word, smacky! 🙂

  47. smacky, you took my comment about the Count way out of context. Of course kids mimic the characters they see – I put that comment out to refute an earlier point that someone made, to the effect that characters on Sesame Street aren’t role models for kids. Of course they are, kids learn all sorts of things from them.

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