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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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Chicago Review Press

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At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it. → 

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Ernie loves only himself, his rubber ducky too.

My group of FWAP (Friends Who Are Parents) all exert considerable amounts of energy bitching about the sorry state of today’s Sesame Street. “It used to be so great!” they moan. “Remember Kermit? And Gordon wearing bellbottoms? And how Bob was a young guy, not a gray husk of withered tissue, neither alive nor dead? And how Mr. Hooper wasn’t a pile of decomposing remains buried under Big Bird’s nest? Remember?”

But most of all, they hate Elmo. They hate all the other new Muppets too, of course. (And I agree with them about Baby Bear. Yes, we get it, you’re wee. Now shut your puppet-hole before I stab you in the wee little eye.) But Elmo apparently represents all that is bad in this world. Elmo is George Bush/Bin Laden/Jennifer Love Hewitt* in a fur suit. Down with Elmo. Boooo. Boooo.

(*I dislike Jennifer Love Hewitt.)

As an all-too-frequent viewer of Sesame Street, I have watched Elmo in action plenty of times. And I have to say, he doesn’t particularly bug me. Partly this is because my son is in love with him; it’s hard to hate someone your son discusses with such dewy-eyed reverence. But also he strikes me as benign, if alarmingly cheerful. No, the character who really causes me distress is an old favorite—an old favorite who I believe is in dire, dire need of retirement.


Before you start hissing at the screen, have you people watched Ernie in action lately? He does nothing but wreak havoc wherever he goes. He’s a sociopath.

Let us compare and contrast:

Elmo: Uses amiable, albeit imaginary, conversations with his pet goldfish as opportunities to learn and grow.

Ernie: Blames malevolent impulses on rubber ducky.

Elmo: Is patient and kind with the deranged lunatic (and, occasionally, the deranged lunatic’s brother) who loiters outside his window.

Ernie: Torments his long-suffering roommate, Bert, on a regular basis.

Elmo: Invites guests to “Elmo’s World” to talk about themselves. Then he sings a song about them.

Ernie: Takes big Muppet-dumps on everyone’s feelings. For instance: he repeatedly disrupts a “Birdketeer” meeting, finally taking over and declaring it a “Duckateer” meeting, thus emotionally devastating Big Bird. And: he ruins Baby Bear's porridge, for no reason. I know it's Baby Bear, but still!

It was his breakfast!

Elmo: Patiently works through conflicts with all of his friends, even Zoe, who’s clearly suffering from several personality disorders.

Ernie: Forces Big Bird to accompany him on mind-altering “journeys” to frightening, hallucinatory landscapes, where he hides, taunting him.

Elmo: is sweet.

Ernie: is a shithead.

Now do you see?

Reader Comments (51)

Here's a real issue that I'd like to see the Presidential candidates discuss. Kerry: "Well, if you asked Ernie, he'd tell you he had a friend named Bert. And he is just being who he was born to be." Bush: "I don't know."

Thanks for the laughs!
October 19, 2004 | Unregistered Commenterxopher
A friend of mine recently posted a link to this on his blog. It is a very long but highly enjoyable read for die-hard Grover-lovers.

The best thing about Ernie was always the Rubber Ducky song. I had his record in childhood, but it was mostly annoying. Grover Sings the Blues and Sesame Disco, on the other hand, were great albums, and I will play them for my daughter when she's a bit older.
October 19, 2004 | Unregistered Commentersarah
For crying out loud people, you are focusing on the wrong target. See, this is why the Left never gets their act together, we squabble over petty issues when the True Evil is lurking in plain sight. I'm speaking, of course, about Oobie. My holy Jesus, the existence of that show can mean only one thing: the End Times are nigh. And even worse: my tow youngest like oobie. They like Granpoo or whatever the fuck the creators of that dreck have named that particular hand that is meant to represent the patriarchal figure. Elmo is small potoatoes when compared with the creeping menace that is Oobie.

ps - Sesame Street bashing is just aging hipsters bemoaning their lost youth, a time when everything was "cool."
October 19, 2004 | Unregistered Commentersac
Jim Henson is gone, Mr. Rogers is gone, sigh..... You betcher ass those were the good old days. I recently heard they were cutting back on the number of Sesame Street episodes they were making. Why not stop making new ones period and bring back the old ones. It's not like the alphabet or the numbers have changed (CountCount!). Bring back Kermit, Snuffleupagus, Oscar, Cookie Monster!
October 19, 2004 | Unregistered CommenterBob
Forget Ernie - it's Poobah that's going to send my kid to the psychiatric couch. It's a total freak show.

And I immediately took the batteries out of Hokey Pokey Elmo so it's all good.
October 19, 2004 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda
Ernie is a holdover for the good old days, when there was public money for Henson and Oz and a bunch of other freaks to sit around, smoke out, and create a show that made kids laugh and learn.

Elmo is the new corporate zeitgeist, when all contributors to the show have alphabet after their names and the balance sheet lives and dies by licensing.
October 19, 2004 | Unregistered CommenterLOD
the best part is when the little boy you are with turns to you and says "Michael and me are friends like Bert and Ernie"and you have absolutely no doubt that that statement is so true.I love being a nanny.

found your blog by way of Flea's...and I love it!
October 19, 2004 | Unregistered CommenterDea
Did I mention just how happy I am that you're back?

My two youngest (2 and 4) will not watch Sesame Street while my oldest swears that Elmo's World is his favorite part. He's nine. Yes. We have just upped the life insurance policies again so that when we are murdered in our beds by one of the children, there will be enough money for a good legal defense and counseling for all. We're closing in on five mil. Sob...

And your reader's comments? By the time I get through it all, there are tears running down my face and I'm waking people up, laughing out loud. Thank God you're all here. Now my life can go on.
October 19, 2004 | Unregistered Commenterthe other Carrie
As someone who is about to have to start watching that show...thanks for the update.
October 20, 2004 | Unregistered Commentersarcastic journalist
Well, this just made me giggle uncontrollably. I don't have problems with Ernie, possibly because he was my favorite in childhood. "And how Bob was a young guy, not a gray husk of withered tissue, neither alive nor dead? " I agree that Bob these days is Just. Plain. Scary.

But my least favorite has to be Big Bird. I clench my teeth every single time I hear his whiney high-pitched beak flapping. Maybe he gets a bad rap because he's "big for his age" but B.B. strikes me as bossy, controlling, and immature. I really always liked Elmo until the day we bought our new car with the built-in DVD player. Elmo's goodnatured squeaking has taken years off my life. The voice without the red fur and crazy outfits is truly awful.
October 20, 2004 | Unregistered CommenterAmy
Oh, oh, OH! I have ANOTHER good reason to retire Ernie! My ex's name is BURT, but he LOOKS like Ernie AND he calls his PENIS Ernie.Oh dear, you have no idea how much joy I got just now out of telling the Internet that my ex named his penis.
October 20, 2004 | Unregistered CommenterKira
Alice, this entry was a little too "meet the feebles" for me. I like my muppets clean. Clean, out, and super. Like grover.

Whom Elmo, in his babytalk bastardry, upstaged, and eventually, as far as i can tell, replaced.

Hmm. I wonder if Peter Jackson's next trilogie will involve murderous packs of muppets with elmo as frodo? el-mo? fro-do? lord of the cheeri-o's? If so, I hope Grover kicks his little baby monster "what do you mean we used to be in feature films about the met? I'm animated" ass.

man i'm tired too.
October 20, 2004 | Unregistered Commenterlis
ROFL!!!! Zoe has personality disorders!!! OMG, that is funny! Good entry :)
October 20, 2004 | Unregistered CommenterChasmyn
Wait a minute. Bert & Ernie don't live together anymore? And they're brothers? I've missed twenty years - obviously, but was this because of the "rumors" about those two?

And did the new muppet with AIDS ever show up on American TV?*

*This may be the gayest comment I've ever made.*
October 21, 2004 | Unregistered Commenterturbulent priest
A muppet with AIDS? God, where have I been?

My kid never really took to Sesame Street. However, Avenue Q [the album, if you live in the hinterlands like me and can't get to the show] is a great curative for those who need a grownup Muppet fix.
October 23, 2004 | Unregistered Commenterelswhere
holy guacamole: that henry is a handsome boy! wow! and of course he likes Elmo - they are like little mirrors of sparkly goodness :) (ps - found you via baggagecarousel)
October 23, 2004 | Unregistered CommenterKatherine
the tragedy of sesame street in particular and children's television in general is that at some point, they realized that children responded more favorably to higher pitched voices and all characters since then have had speech more or less in the "nails on chalkboard" range. apparently the same rationale is behind the bizarre "i refer to myself in the third person" elmo and "i have a really grating lisp" baby bear. if the point is to make children's television appealing to children, that was the right move, but my experience is that kids don't seem all that choosy about what they watch. a better approach, if the concern really was to make television good for children (which that at least ostensibly would have been the goal) would have been to make it something that adults can bear to watch, rather than something we are tempted to park the kiddies in front of as we flee in exquisite horror from the squeak that is zoe. as a person over the age of 3, i prefer the voices i listen to for more than five minutes to be... well, as deep as marianne faithfull's, at least. i'd settle for "as deep as my own child's" though, and the subject matter can be slightly different; i'm flexible. i would rather watch re-runs of mr. rogers zipping up his sweater forever than 30 minutes of barney.

i am sorry that i have left a novel in your comments box.
October 24, 2004 | Unregistered Commenteranne
Weird...I read this Friday, then on Saturday morning I turn on the Noggin for John and see not only the Bird-keteer/Duck-keteer Sesame Street but also the Cyril-pees-himself episode of Maisy!

And my wife's observation on Charlie, Maisy's friend: "he's got a laugh like a serial killer, doesn't he?"
October 25, 2004 | Unregistered CommenterHarold
OMG, this site has me in tears its so funny.

I don't like Elmo - especially his third person crap - but he's tolerable. Baby Bear needs a bullet to the head. I understand they're trying to say that speech impediments are okay, but for goodness sakes dont TEACH kids to talk like that!

Why does Maisy NEVER wear a dress? Is she a lesbo? Is that why she and Tellulah take baths together? That episode where Cyrill pees himself - what a classic! LOL

Give Oobie a break. He and his sis, Uma must have gone through some really bad shit to be living with Grampu now. Where are their parents?
November 10, 2004 | Unregistered CommenterDeen
I didn't know, until recently, that there was any discussion about current Sesame Street sucking. We watch current Sesame Street (me being me and my 3yr old daughter), but we also have about 25 video tapes going all the way back to the beginning, so it's kind of all one big ball of stuff to me, and hard to distinguish. Accordingly, I sat down and watched a new episode. And, I still like the new stuff. The concept of Rocco is a little annoying, and I think Zoe's character is sexist, which is also annoying, but I think overall I think it's still good. Ernie is the same as he's always been, kind of clueless, and Bob just got old! Happens to the best of us.

What really irritates me is the new show, "Maya and Miguel." Talk about sexist. "He leads with his head, she follows her heart." Sheesh. Also, as my daughter pointed out, "Mama, Maya and Miguel is boring."

Love your blog. Henry is gorgeous, seriously, one of the most beautiful kids I've seen.

November 12, 2004 | Unregistered Commentercherylc
God, I'm sorry, but at the moment you included Jennifer Love Hewitt at the tail end of that little axis of evil? You became my goddess. Thank you.
November 14, 2004 | Unregistered CommenterRin
Never apologize for making me your goddess.

November 14, 2004 | Unregistered Commenteralice
Ernie was always a mixed bag for me, I'm still tramautized by that whole surreal "Egyptian Tomb" montage they did about 20 years ago.......

Ernie as a sarcophageal muppet-statue thing, coming to life scarred my young mind worse than that time earwigs made a nest in my ear.....
March 7, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterTaichi
Hey come on it's Ernie and I can't believe it...they were saying Ernie and Bert are gay!So that's why the killed him off.So there just saying ''hey it's ok to kill gay people!''No it's not there human too.Just because there not straight. *sigh*
October 10, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterUnknown

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