The original episodes of Sesame Street have been issued on DVD. But our children better not watch them. It wouldn’t be right.
Just donâ€™t bring the children. According to an earnest warning on Volumes 1 and 2, â€œSesame Street: Old Schoolâ€ is adults-only: â€œThese early â€˜Sesame Streetâ€™ episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of todayâ€™s preschool child.â€
Virgina Heffernan explains in Sweeping the Clouds away:
Live-action cows also charge the 1969 screen â€” cows eating common grass, not grain improved with hormones. Cows are milked by plain old farmers, who use their unsanitary hands and fill one bucket at a time. Elsewhere, two brothers risk concussion while whaling on each other with allergenic feather pillows. Overweight layabouts, lacking touch-screen iPods and headphones, jockey for airtime with their deafening transistor radios. And one of those radios plays a late-â€™60s news report â€” something about a â€œsenior American officialâ€ and â€œtwo billion in credit over the next five yearsâ€ â€” that conjures a bleak economic climate, with war debt and stagflation in the offing.The old â€œSesame Streetâ€ is not for the faint of heart, and certainly not for softies born since 1998, when the chipper â€œElmoâ€™s Worldâ€ started. Anyone who considers bull markets normal, extracurricular activities sacrosanct and New York a tidy, governable place â€” well, the original â€œSesame Streetâ€ might hurt your feelings.
Well for one thing, there was Cookie Monster doing his Allistair Cooke impersontation:
I asked Carol-Lynn Parente, the executive producer of â€œSesame Street,â€ how exactly the first episodes were unsuitable for toddlers in 2007. She told me about Alistair Cookie and the parody â€œMonsterpiece Theater.â€ Alistair Cookie, played by Cookie Monster, used to appear with a pipe, which he later gobbled. According to Parente, â€œThat modeled the wrong behaviorâ€ â€” smoking, eating pipes â€” â€œso we reshot those scenes without the pipe, and then we dropped the parody altogether.â€
Cookie Monster? wrong behavior?
As for Cookie Monster, he can be seen in the old-school episodes in his former inglorious incarnation: a blue, googly-eyed cookievore with a signature gobble (â€œom nom nom nomâ€). Originally designed by Jim Henson for use in commercials for General Foods International and Frito-Lay, Cookie Monster was never a righteous figure. His controversial conversion to a more diverse diet wouldnâ€™t come until 2005, and in the early seasons he comes across a Childâ€™s First Addict.
No we wouldn’t want our children to follow his example.
Unfortunately one of the examples does strike as a reason to be careful.
Back then â€” as on the very first episode, which aired on PBS Nov. 10, 1969 â€” 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. As it was, he fed her milk and cookies. The milk looks dangerously whole.
Some of the reasons why Sesame Street isn’t fit for children sound like warmed over political correctness. The last one mentioned here, though, reflects the our society’s loss of innocence. At the same time that our society has become overprotective of children in silly ways, in other ways new hazards have appeared that we must protect them from.
UPDATE: Ed Driscoll adds:
Forty years from now, when the current season of Sesame Street is being assembled for release on whatever the successor format to the successor format of DVD is, how much of it will have to be reshot to comply with how much further the nanny state is sure to have expanded further?
Crossposted on Soccer Dad.