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Old School Sesame Street not Safe for Today’s Toddlers

November 21st, 2007     by Stacey May Fowles     Comments

For those readers who grew up in the early days of Sesame Street, you’ll be happy to know that the golden era of Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch and The Count are now available on DVD. There’s one thing you should know, however: according to the New York Times, these DVDs have been branded strictly for adults only:

According to an earnest warning on Volumes 1 and 2, “Sesame Street: Old School” is adults-only: “These early ‘Sesame Street’ episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of today’s preschool child.”

That’s right, children of the seventies and early eighties. According to modern standards, the pre-Elmo Sesame Street you grew up with is actually unsuitable to grow up with. The various reasons behind this warning may seem absurd, but they speak to an interesting trend, an overall cultural shift in terms of how we raise and subsequently shield our children from reality, and how modern children’s programming is deceptive (and often problematically gendered) “candy-colored animation hopped up on computer tricks.”

Contemporary television shows for children are a far cry from Oscar the Grouch’s depressive tendencies and Big Bird’s constant hallucinations of Snuffeluppagus (in fact, post 1985 everyone else on the street could suddenly see Snuffy too, simply because Big Bird’s imaginary friend got “creepy.”) This from Jezebel.com:

The producers cite an array of reasons (for the warning) including but not nearly limited to Cookie Monster, who was not only a pathological binge eater but also the Muppet who played the character Alistair Cookie, who, explains the New York Times Magazine “used to appear with a pipe, which he later gobbled. According to Parente, ‘That modeled the wrong behavior’ — smoking, eating pipes — ‘so we reshot those scenes without the pipe, and then we dropped the parody altogether.’”

In fact, the golden age of Sesame Street speaks to an era before our culture was paralyzed by a fear of our “neighbours:”

Back then — as on the very first episode, which aired on PBS Nov. 10, 1969 — a pretty, lonely girl like Sally might find herself befriended by an older male stranger who held her hand and took her home. Granted, Gordon just wanted Sally to meet his wife and have some milk and cookies, but … well, he could have wanted anything.

Please excuse me if I say “those were the good ol’ days,” but as our culture becomes increasingly sanitized and conservative, I worry that our children will miss out on gems like this, Sesame Street’s take on the Women’s Liberation movement:

(After the jump, I’ve included Stevie Wonder singing Superstition on Sesame Street, just for some nostalgic “when I was a kid” fun.)

Tags: film reel, in my opinion..., media savvy

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