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?