Sesame Street will return to PBS next month for its 42nd season, and according to a recent USA Today article the show will have a renewed focus on science, math and engineering.
Sure sounds different than the adults-only warning that accompanied past episodes. Wait, what? The curious caveat appears on a DVD collection of shows originally broadcast from 1969-1979. “These early Sesame Street episodes are intended for grown-ups,” the disclaimer states, “and may not suit the needs of today’s preschool child.”
Yesteryear’s preschool child was apparently exposed to characters with habits that “modeled the wrong behavior,” the show’s executive producer told The New York Times.
Chief among the offenders is Cookie Monster, the beloved, blue binge-eater of cookies and anything else he could comically cram into his mouth. Cookie Monster earned the adults-only warning for smoking and eating his pipe in his “Monster Piece Theater” send-ups of pipe-smoking PBS host Alistair Cooke.
The 1960’s-style suggestion that Big Bird might have been hallucinating about seeing Snuffleupagus earned a caution as well. And as for chronically crabby, sarcastic, un-medicated Oscar the Grouch…well, the show’s executive producer sums up the warning against the moody malcontent this way: “We might not be able to create a character like Oscar now.”
Is it OK for children to be exposed to fictional TV characters with personality flaws? By protecting kids from questionable traits and behavior, what effect do we have on their ability to discern and make their own sound decisions?
(A portion of this story was previously published as “Cookie Monster Was a Binge Eater” on The Responsibility Project on 2/28/08)