Saturday, April 16, 2005

Me No Want Less Cookies

I remember growing up watching Sesame Street and hoping that someday the chracters on the show would finally realize that Mr. Snuffolopocus (what a great Greek name) was not Big Bird’s imaginary friend but that he was real! (That sure shows my age!) As an adult I am amazed at how progressive Sesame Street really was and continues to be. Seasame Street appears to be located in a lower middle-class neighborhood somewhere in the greater New York area. As expected, the people there are of many different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. There are grouches, people with big noses, and even (yikes!) gay people. Sure, Bert and Ernie are not yet out of the closet but they are two grown men that live together and share fun and exciting experiences together and that’s great.

Now Seasme Street is changing. In their effort to curb the problem of obesity in children the producers of Seasame Street have decided to put Cookie Monster on a diet. Yes, cookies are now “a sometimes food” and we will begin to see the blue puppet scarf down veggies and fruit. A sometimes food? I cannot imagine that any child (even on that was a pudgy as I was as a kid) would think that we could survive on cookies. What made Cookie Monster such a great character is that he reminded us of a part of the human psyche that is difficult to laugh at. All of us have difficulties controling our most basic desires for fatty sugary foods or for sex. I remember that when people would take away a cookie from Cookie Monster he would go absolutely crazy and once he got his hands on that desert he’d scarf it down like it was the last cookie on earth. If anything that showed the problems with denying yourself what your love: the inevitable overindulgence.

While I mourn the loss of the “real” Cookie Monster, I do appreciate Seasame Street’s efforts to keep him a little crazy. During the “Cookie is a Sometimes Food” song the monster asks, “Is sometimes now?” What Cookie Monster needs is not some owl telling him the virtues of a healthy diet. He needs a lifestyle change ala Oprah Winfrey. I was an overweight child as were Gretchen and Mancandee. I cannot explain why we had to shop for the hefty sized jeans at Sears but I can assure you that Cookie Monster had little to do with it. I think Seasame Street is doing a good job focusing on “health” but we must be careful to push children to deny foods like cookies altogether and end up with either really overweight children or nine year olds with an eating diorder.

I love Seasame Street but I do hope that they don’t change what makes their show great – having muppet characters make us laugh my protraying many different kinds of people and ways of life. If Oscar becomes nice I will be outraged. And, please, do not make Bert and Ernie move in with female counterparts. We like them just the way they are.


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