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Elmo backlash? Lovable little monster, or furry menace?
September 28, 2011 4:37 PM   Subscribe

"'Being Elmo,' the crowd-pleasing [documentary film] profile of the man behind Elmo, arguably the most-loved Muppet on 'Sesame Street,' has been melting hearts on the festival circuit since premiering at Sundance this year, where it won the Special Jury Prize. ... [It's the] story of how puppeteer Kevin Clash came up through the ranks on sheer ambition and ingenuity to become one of the best in the business is an underdog tale of the best variety."* However, could it be that there is an Elmo backlash brewing?

The film will be released to theaters on October 22nd.
posted by ericb (107 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
I don't care what anyone says. I ♥ Elmo!
posted by ericb at 4:38 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's been an Elmo backlash for as long as there's been an Elmo, for whatever that's worth.
posted by padraigin at 4:39 PM on September 28, 2011 [36 favorites]


His autobiography, My Life as a Furry Red Monster, was a great read. I will definitely see this film!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:39 PM on September 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Anyone else notice that Telly got a lot more anxious when Elmo came around? It's been sad watching him deteriorate over the years. I know you can't blame Elmo for stepping up and entertaining the kids, but the producers really should have looked out for Telly--set him up with a good therapist when they noticed what was happening.
posted by jwhite1979 at 4:43 PM on September 28, 2011 [21 favorites]


In Bavaria, there is an Elmo solo show. Similar high-pitched voice, too.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:46 PM on September 28, 2011


Parents dislike Elmo for a variety of reasons. Kids love Elmo in a way that is unparalleled by other muppets and tv personalities. How many of these reasons overlap?
posted by k8t at 4:48 PM on September 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


The character is annoying and not nearly as much fun as Grover, but I sure admire Kevin Clash.
posted by cogneuro at 4:48 PM on September 28, 2011 [11 favorites]


I love elmo because he brings my 2 and a half year old daughter such utter joy. That is all.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 4:50 PM on September 28, 2011 [11 favorites]


It's Sinatra's Elmo's world, we just live in it.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:54 PM on September 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


Elmo can tickle me anytime.

/sultryvoice
posted by Mister Fabulous at 4:55 PM on September 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Elmo Show Sesame Street has long been dead to me, because of the Little Red Menace. I find his character way too saccharine, cutesy, and patronizing. Pre-Elmo Sesame Street had the advantage in that while it was a kid show, the content wasn't dumbed down and sugared up in an attempt to appeal to little kids (or more likely, helicopter parents). It appears to me Elmo was really a hit with parents, and CTW hit marketing gold with the character.
posted by 2N2222 at 4:58 PM on September 28, 2011 [11 favorites]


I've mentioned it here before, but this bit from NPR's Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me with Clash and Elmo made me a fan of the man more than Elmo alone ever could have...
posted by pupdog at 4:58 PM on September 28, 2011 [8 favorites]


Oh, hey, here's a tune of mine at Mefi Music, inspired by the lovable little monster:

Bring Me The Head Of Elmo
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:58 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't think of Elmo without thinking of this comment by Greg Nog.
posted by changeling at 4:58 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


arguably the most-loved Muppet on 'Sesame Street,'

"Arguably" doesn't seem strong enough there. "Knock-down-drag-out-knife-fight-in-the-parking-lot-because-I-will-destroy-you-and-all-that-you-love-ably" would be more along the lines.

Not an Elmo fan. GROVER 4LYFE
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 4:59 PM on September 28, 2011 [9 favorites]


Ha. My parents saw a screening at the Travis City (MI?) film festival, and a follow up talk by this Kevin Clash fellow, which to be honest sounded as boring as cheddar cheese (not always a bad thing), so I'm not even going to click on any links. The 15 minutes I heard about was plenty.

Take that, Mom and Dad! (jk)

I've seen a shitload of SS and the Muppets, and I've never seen an Elmo scene. Grover (and Gonzo (and Camilla)) forever!
posted by mrgrimm at 5:12 PM on September 28, 2011


Elmo has been appearing on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon regularly since it started, and it's always one of those really odd guest appearances. You know it's a puppet aimed at children, but since it's a late night talk show, the approach and comedy is much more aimed at adults. It's these appearances which have helped me appreciate Elmo as something more than an annoying voice in a red fur suit. There's a heart and a sensibility there which plays well across the generations, especially when given a context in which it's appropriate for him to be inappropriate.
posted by hippybear at 5:21 PM on September 28, 2011


Elmo is the Jar Jar of Sesame Street.
posted by bleep at 5:24 PM on September 28, 2011 [21 favorites]


2N2222: “Sesame Street has long been dead to me, because of the Little Red Menace. I find his character way too saccharine, cutesy, and patronizing. Pre-Elmo Sesame Street had the advantage in that while it was a kid show, the content wasn't dumbed down and sugared up in an attempt to appeal to little kids (or more likely, helicopter parents). It appears to me Elmo was really a hit with parents, and CTW hit marketing gold with the character.”

You know, Elmo isn't the only one on the whole show. I think CTW is doing a lot of good for a lot of kids; if it does even a tenth as much good as it did when I was a kid (and I've watched it some – I believe it's still very good) then it's well worth every single Tickle-Me-Elmo doll they ever sell.

Aside from my sense that the commercial viability of CTW is probably a good thing for humans in general – I think there are reasons for Elmo's meteoric rise in popularity that relate to the sense a lot of people have that he's too cloying and cutesy. It's a much, much more cynical world than it was in the late 70s and early 80s when I (we?) started watching. People may not remember this through the filter of childhood, but there was some preciousness and precociousness to the characters even then; by which I mean – it was easy to make fun of them, and as I recall lots of people did. In light of this, it's sort of surprising to notice that Elmo sounds almost exactly like what I recall people sounding like when they were making fun of the Sesame Street Muppets – that high-pitched, wah-wah sort of ungrammatical speech he has is very much like mockeries of Sesame Street that I remember hearing.

I don't think it's too far off base to say that, in this sense, Elmo is almost a validation of the things society would like most to make fun of. He's silly, he's cutesy, he's (oh heaven forbid) somewhat effeminate, and he's very, very affectionate. And presenting him as Sesame Street does – as a full character, garnering all the respect and attention a full character deserves, without marginalization of any kind – I think Sesame Street is saying: it's okay to be soft; it's okay to be cloying, to be affectionate, to not live up to certain ideas people have for what you ought to be. The younger kids don't get that message necessarily, of course; they love Elmo because he's a cute little guy. But the somewhat older children, I think – well, I hope – might be able to see the wisdom in this acceptance, and learn something about how people who aren't necessarily what the world views as "serious" might be just as worthy of attention and respect as anybody else.

Seeing this trailer clarifies and, I think, amplifies some of my feelings about Elmo. He's clearly a character borne from a reaction to rejection, to mockery – that is, I believe he's a character who about giving simple love and affection the respect it deserves. And I think that's a fine lesson – that it is all right to be affectionate, to show love. In an ever-crueler world, I think kids need to learn that.
posted by koeselitz at 5:25 PM on September 28, 2011 [33 favorites]


Look, the Sesame Street that we grew up with is long gone. Today, kids are in preschool at age 3. Sesame Street's viewers are younger than we were. They had to change. Elmo is part of that change. Deal with it.
posted by k8t at 5:26 PM on September 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


I saw a screening of this last night with Kevin Clash (and Elmo) in attendance. I bawled: at what Elmo meant to the kids onscreen and in the theater, at Elmo & Clash's interactions with Make-A-Wish kids whose final wish is to hang with Elmo, at the overwhelming goodness of Henson, Clash and seemingly everyone who ever touched a muppet.

It's hard to be cynical about Elmo, even though he is a marketing juggernaut, when you know Clash's story and especially how Elmo as we know him came into being: Elmo the puppet has been around since the early 70s and went from puppeteer to puppeteer with no one finding a personality for it they were happy with. In the mid-80s, Richard Hunt was performing Elmo as a caveman-like character (the clip shown in the movie can best be described as "Elmo Smash!") and hating every minute of it. After a few episodes Hunt stormed into the break room and literally threw Elmo at Clash and told him it was his problem.

Clash had created a string of minor characters before but now he had to develop a character that none of these legendary puppeteers (Carol Spinney! Jerry Nelson!) had been able to develop. He asked the advice of Frank Oz and he explained that all his characters had a hook that he used to inform everything he did with them. Oz said Fozzie was a vaudeville comedian and Miss Piggy was "a trucker who wants to be woman". Find that hook and everything else falls into place.

So Clash goes back to Baltimore to his parents' house where his mother runs a daycare. It was here that he got his start in puppetry: putting on shows for all the children his mother watched. He watched the kids for some personality quirk that he could use for Elmo. Finally, he figured out the one thing that united all the kids, the one thing they could take from Elmo.

Elmo loved you.

That was Elmo's hook: love. He loved you. He loved life. Elmo loved everything.

He found the voice and kids responded immediately. They still do. Any backlash says more about us than it does about Elmo.
posted by unsupervised at 5:28 PM on September 28, 2011 [86 favorites]


I don't think Elmo is terrible, but I do admire the way that the original Sesame Street characters were all a little odd. They were a bit hairy and knobby and eccentric; even Kermit, the straight man, has that gargly voice and his face scrunches when he's exasperated. Elmo, on the other hand, is cute in coloring-book way, a little cutey-boo character with no strange points to speak of. I prefer the original style, but c'est la vie.
posted by argybarg at 5:30 PM on September 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


My 19 month old daughter is an Elmo fanatic. She absolutely adores the little red dude. Given the current alternatives for little girls - hypersexualized princesses, baby beauty queens, etc. etc. - I'll take what Elmo represents any day of the week.
posted by googly at 5:31 PM on September 28, 2011 [8 favorites]


I'm a Communication scholar and while I don't study kids and media, I always try to pop in on the research that Sesame Workshop does. Life altering stuff.

Last conference in Boston, this is what they presented on:

http://www.icahdq.org/conf/2011confprogram.pdf

Jalan Sesama's Impact on Young Indonesian Children's Literacy and Math Outcomes
Dina L. G. Borzekowski, Johns Hopkins U, USA
Evaluation of Galli Galli Sim Sim's Mobile Community Viewing Activity on Indian Children's and Parents' Health Outcomes
Ameena Batada, Sesame Workshop India, INDIA

And 2 years ago

http://www.icahdq.org/conf/2009program.pdf

Data Tracking and Error Analysis as Tools for Understanding Children's Literacy Learning
Carla C.E. Fisher, Sesame Workshop, USA
Glenda Revelle, Sesame Workshop, USA
Mathematical Problem Solving and Online Gameplay
Shalom M. Fisch, MediaKidz Research and Consulting, USA
David Hirmes, Thirteen/WNET, USA
Michael Templeton, Thirteen/WNET, USA
Frances Nankin, Thirteen/WNET, USA
Sandra Sheppard, Thirteen/WNET, USA
Richard A. Lesh, Indiana U, USA
Elizabeth Motoki, Indiana U, USA
Sandra Crespo, Michigan State U, USA
Vincent Melfi, Michigan State U, USA
Informal Science Literacy in Online Play
Constance Steinkuehler, U of Wisconsin- Madison, USA

And in '07:
http://www.icahdq.org/conf/2007program.pdf

A Walk Down the Longest Street in the World: What Research Says About the Impact of International Coproductions of Sesame Street
Instructional & Developmental Communication
Chair
Charlotte Cole, Sesame Workshop, USA
Participants
Ulitsa Sezam: Addressing Social Diversity With Children of Russia
Anna Mirney, Wheelock College, USA
Sesame Street U.S.A: Research From Season 37
Jennifer Anne Kotler, Sesame Workshop, USA
David Cohen, Sesame Workshop, USA
Rosemarie T. Truglio, Sesame Workshop, USA
Effects of Alam Simsim on Preschool Children's Literacy, Math Skills, and Gender Attitudes: Findings from Egypt
Rajiv N. Rimal, Johns Hopkins U, USA
Maria Elena Figueroa, Johns Hopkins U, USA
Molly Ann Federowicz, Johns Hopkins U, USA
The Educational Impact of Sisimpur: Results of an Experimental Study of Children's Learning
June Hui Min Lee, Sesame Workshop, USA

Sesame Street, one of the most popular children's programs in the United States, has become a shared experience for children across the globe. Currently, children view locally developed versions of Sesame Street in 29 countries and regions. International coproductions are created using educational objectives and production formats designed to meet the needs of children in the given country. Sesame Workshop's commitment to producing culturally relevant materials for diverse, dynamic populations makes research an essential part of Sesame Street's domestic and international success. Specifically, the Workshop employs two types of research: formative research, which informs material-
development for these projects and brings the child's voice into the production process; and summative research, which assesses outcomes such as reach, educational effectiveness and cultural impact after the show has been aired.
The proposed panel discusses the methodology and results of two formative studies conducted for productions in Russia (Ulitsa Sezam) and the United States, and two summative studies conducted for the productions in Egypt (Alam Simsim) and Bangladesh (Sisimpur). Taken together, the panel underscores the role of research in informing the
production of a television series that has become one of the largest informal educators of children in the world.
posted by k8t at 5:34 PM on September 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


PLUS it gets kids hooked on television. Win-win.
posted by jwhite1979 at 5:35 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Where does the "sesame" part of the name come from?

I've never understood that.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:50 PM on September 28, 2011


I don't know if anyone cares, but here's a picture of Clash and his friend.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:51 PM on September 28, 2011


It's worth pointing out, just for spite, that Kevin Clash and Henrietta Lacks both came from Turner's Station, a neighborhood of Dundalk, Maryland, which makes Dundalk two for two in bringing immortal cancers to the world.
posted by sonascope at 5:54 PM on September 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Where does the "sesame" part of the name come from?

"Poppyseed Street" didn't have the alliteration going for it.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:54 PM on September 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


I was a housebound mother (brutal New England winter, very sick toddler, husband working out of town for days at a time) and Sesame Street really helped us get through some tough mornings. I didn't know how really isolated and weird and enmeshed things had gotten, in fact, until one morning, as we were watching SS, snuggled on the couch.

Elmo was performing a formal musical song-and-dance number and I remember feeling concerned. Sure, he had on a fancy tuxedo now, but what if he needed something else for casual wear? Like, when not performing, but taking meetings around the Sesame Street offices. Where on earth did he get his clothes?

"Oh, right," I remember thinking (and sort of observing myself thinking it, with a slight delay). "He lives in New York City! He probably knows some specialty shops, or has the name of a special tailor."

I started looking for a part-time babysitter that afternoon.

Elmo? He's my bellweather.
posted by Ink-stained wretch at 5:57 PM on September 28, 2011 [15 favorites]


Ink-stained wretch, that was hilarious.

BTW, it's "bellwether", as the word doesn't reference climate, but rather, castrated rams.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:02 PM on September 28, 2011


Yes, Elmo is my castrated ram. Sorry if I didn't make that clear.

(Oops.)
posted by Ink-stained wretch at 6:03 PM on September 28, 2011 [11 favorites]


twoleftfeet: Where does the "sesame" part of the name come from?
After a long search for a catchy name, one of the show's writers suggested Sesame Street. The name "Sesame" was meant to conjure up a sense of excitement and adventure, as in the Arabian Nights command, "Open Sesame!" Because the show was set in an urban street scene, Sesame Street seemed an ideal combination.
Source here. As a side note, I saw Being Elmo at the HotDocs Festival back in May and Kevin Clash is a sweet sweet man.
posted by gman at 6:03 PM on September 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


As a more polite postscript to my previous comment, I should also point out that in person, Kevin Clash is a dear, kindhearted man who's almost impossible to dislike. It's not him, and his story is definitely an inspiring one. It's just that he has Satan on his hand.
posted by sonascope at 6:04 PM on September 28, 2011


Elmo knows where you live.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 6:04 PM on September 28, 2011


I once heard something too depressing to verify, that smaller muppets took a larger share of the program because the puppeteers that did Snuffalufagus and Big Bird were getting so old the puppets crushed their frail bodies.

I know it doesn't really make sense, as I am sure they replaced puppeteers throughout the history of the show. But it is just so sad I don't want to look it up out of fear that it is true.
posted by munchingzombie at 6:05 PM on September 28, 2011


When Henson and Oz worked variety shows in the 60s and 70s, they brought humor out of what could have been little more than fast-moving schtick by seeming ready to go off-script at any point and do something totally uncalled for. During unscripted moments, such as host segments, they would (seriously, track down some of their variety show appearances - they're still funny). It's the same mix of speed, tension and outrage that made the Marx Brothers, and Robin Williams hilarious and memorable. The original Muppet Show wasn't always capable of capturing that anarchist spirit, but the hits came frequently enough that the misses were easy to ignore. But since then things have steadily slowed down and gotten nicer, until they were sufficiently safe entertainment for Disney to purchase.

So what I find really interesting about Elmo and Kevin Clash is the muppeteer's style is similar to Henson's in some ways. Clash is able to keep the people around him continually off-guard without ever being insulting, skirting the margins of questionable terrain without ever becoming crude. He knows full well that he's got something on the end of his arm that's beloved by millions of children doing this, and he's delighting in where he can get Elmo to go.
posted by ardgedee at 6:11 PM on September 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


A lot of the Elmo hate is born not from Elmo the Sesame Street character, but Elmo the pernicious marketing brainworm. Elmo products are ubiquitous and near-impossible to avoid as a parent of a young child -- dolls, books, toys, videos, costumes, clothes, you name it. They capture a child's love and imagination like a hypno-toad with roofies. They do violence to the naive belief that a parent can filter the outside world. Elmo the product cackles at parents, taunting them, mocking their powerlessness.
posted by brain_drain at 6:19 PM on September 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


There's been an Elmo backlash for as long as there's been an Elmo, for whatever that's worth.

Yeah, and you can reliably judge how old someone is by how they feel about Elmo. Grew up watching Bert and Ernie and Oscar and Big Bird, and hiding behind the couch from the typewriter? (Just me? Okay.) Then Elmo is a dumbed-down interloper lowering the tone of the whole place. Why can't we have more adult-oriented material, like the bit where Ernie has a banana in his ear? Or that time Big Bird learned his alphabet? Straight off the STREETS, y'all. (No, really; it was chalked on the street.)

On the other hand my younger siblings and cousins are fine with Elmo, because he's what they grew up with. And because he loves them, as unsupervised says.

My Sesame Street melancholy is far more linked to the Rise of CG than the Reign of Elmo. I'm sure that if you could visualize my subconscious, it would be carpeted and furnished with those scruffy old cartoons and goofy songs. Now when I catch a few minutes of CG, it looks slick and... not hand-made, I guess. I know that CG requires time and skill to put together, and I'm sure that the usual gang of child psychologists has OKed it all as an improvement on the original, but... you know. It's the aesthetic. The appreciation for the handmade and the imperfect. Oh well.
posted by No-sword at 6:22 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Elmo + Gervais = Hilarity
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:26 PM on September 28, 2011 [8 favorites]


Sesame Street: Craig Ferguson Explains the Word Experiment
posted by kmz at 6:26 PM on September 28, 2011


Elmo + Gervais + Warrick Davis
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:33 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh god. A George Harrison post and one related to Jim Henson in the same night. I'm gonna get all comfy and watch as much as I can about the two men and get a little weepy. No love for elmo, but I can't stand to hate the guy because of the culture he came out of. Plus that documentary trailer made me tear up. Looks like hanky material.
posted by gingembre at 6:38 PM on September 28, 2011


This thread has helped me come around and not hate Elmo so much, but can someone explain something to me? Is it okay to laugh at little persons now if you're doing it ironically with Elmo in the room? Or do you have to be Ricky Gervais?
posted by jwhite1979 at 6:43 PM on September 28, 2011


I once heard something too depressing to verify, that smaller muppets took a larger share of the program because the puppeteers that did Snuffalufagus and Big Bird were getting so old the puppets crushed their frail bodies.

I know it doesn't really make sense, as I am sure they replaced puppeteers throughout the history of the show.
Not in that case. Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch have always been performed by Carroll Spinney, who is now 77 years old.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:44 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Elmo is the Jar Jar of Sesame Street.

Now that's just silly. Elmo is the personification of sweetness and lovableness — and pretty much the antithesis of everything inane and forgettable about Star Wars, which is mostly everything, these days.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:50 PM on September 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


When I was a kid we had little plastic cups in the primary colors. My sister and I used to fight over who got the red cup which we called the elmo cup. None of the other cups got names like that, it wasn't like the yellow cup was the big bird cup or the blue cup was the grover/cookie monster cup.
posted by I Foody at 6:51 PM on September 28, 2011


I don't know about Elmo, but this helps me to understand why I don't like Ricky Gervais. He's a Sesame Street Muppet who got older without growing up.
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:54 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Melmo" was one of my son's first ten words. I'm just not gonna hate the little red guy.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:56 PM on September 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is it okay to laugh at little persons now if you're doing it ironically with Elmo in the room? Or do you have to be Ricky Gervais?

I think he is doing a show with Davis, which is a comedy about how people are uncomfortable around little people, which is why Davis is there (though not explained, granted).
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:04 PM on September 28, 2011


I can't think of Elmo without thinking of this comment by Greg Nog.

Thank you! Or, more recently

posted by Greg Nog at 7:05 PM on September 28, 2011


jwhite1979: Is it okay to laugh at little persons now if you're doing it ironically with Elmo in the room? Or do you have to be Ricky Gervais?

I'm just stunned that Kevin Clash can operate two muppets at once.
posted by dr_dank at 7:13 PM on September 28, 2011


arguably the most-loved Muppet on 'Sesame Street

*summons Bert & Ernie for some beatdown work*
posted by jonmc at 7:25 PM on September 28, 2011


at Elmo & Clash's interactions with Make-A-Wish kids whose final wish is to hang with Elmo

As a parent, I swear I have no idea how he does it. I mean, in a lot of these situations any reasonable person would be an emotional mess, yet there he is, operating Elmo, staying in character, being perfectly there.

Clash is the youngest, and one of the last fully active, of the generation of puppeteers that worked closely with Henson and was trained by him. For the work he's done keeping Henson's work ethic alive with younger puppeteers I'll forgive him the little Red Menace.

I know it doesn't really make sense, as I am sure they replaced puppeteers throughout the history of the show.

From the excellent Muuppet Wiki: "As Caroll Spinney has aged, the show has gradually started to train new performers to play Big Bird. These apprentices include both Rick Lyon in the opening theme song of the show's 20th, 25th, and 33rd seasons[11] and Matt Vogel in the show's Journey to Ernie segment. Sometimes, Matt Vogel performs in the Big Bird puppet, with Caroll Spinney dubbing all his lines in later, though Vogel has also performed the voice on occasion. "

I suspect they'll get to a point where there will always be someone else in the costume & Spinney will dub the lines as long as he can.

On the topic of Snuffy the wiki has this to say:

"It takes two people to perform Mr. Snuffleupagus. The person who performs the front also performs the voice. Jerry Nelson was the first to play the character. Most sources...state that back problems caused by the physical stress of the performance forced him to bow out, but in a 2009 interview Jerry Nelson gave a different explanation for giving up the role: "I was not loathed to give that character up. But the reasons for giving it up were because at that time we were doing The Muppet Show and he was a real part of the show, and they needed his presence. So they asked if I’d mind giving it up."[3] Michael Earl Davis took over for three seasons..., before Marty Robinson became the permanent voice and face of Snuffy. The back of Mr. Snuffleupagus has been performed by Richard Hunt, Brian Muehl, Frank Kane, and Peter Friedman, but since 1979, the regular back-end has been Bryant Young. "

Snuffy's current 'front end' Marty Robinson keeps a quite excellent blog (hosted at sesamestreet.org) where he periodically talks about what it's like to work the puppet.
posted by anastasiav at 7:32 PM on September 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


Also, here is a video of Clash completely making some pregnant woman's day.
posted by anastasiav at 7:45 PM on September 28, 2011 [8 favorites]


Elmo is the personification of sweetness and lovableness

This is what I don't buy, what I wouldn't buy if I were a kid, and my kids didn't buy. Elmo isn't the personification of sweetness and lovableness. Elmo is supposed to be the personification of sweetness and lovableness. When you can detect the difference, the intention doesn't ring true.

What's also been lost is the entertainment value. Post Elmo doesn't work as well for the non kid audience. Because it's too busy being cloying. Then again, I was one of those kids who thought Tom & Jerry was brilliantly edgy.
posted by 2N2222 at 7:55 PM on September 28, 2011


Look, we all know that little kids shouldn't be watching TV.

But do you know WHY Sesame Street started in the late 1960s?

Low income kids, especially those from the inner city, were SO far behind their suburban cohortmates in kindergarten.

People knew that if a TV should could promote kindergarten skills that those kids were quite obviously not getting from their parents, the long-term societal impacts would be huge.

And guess what? It has helped (after some early tweaking.)
posted by k8t at 8:03 PM on September 28, 2011


They got rid of Don Music for stated reasons, but why did Grover get shafted?

I get the feeling that when Elmo came on the scene with his cute voice, the audience presumed Grover was an adult or even his dad... and then the surveys came back and it was all "hey, the kids love this new Elmo character."

DON MUSIC 4LYFE
posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:15 PM on September 28, 2011


but why did Grover get shafted?

Grover's been making a big comeback the past couple of seasons.
posted by anastasiav at 8:17 PM on September 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I =used= to be completely anti-Elmo.

The biggest thing that changed that was Mr. Rogers Neighborhood undergoing a complete dissection and analysis in the passing of Fred Rodgers, and the realization that he really, really knew what he was doing.

Elmo's World, I now realize, took the lessons of Mr. Rogers, and applied them. Regular and predictable segments, based around a theme little kids could understand and emulate where appropriate. There is order and sense in Elmo's World, an invitation to play and explore and understand, as they already understand there are parts to the show, and the parts are different, and they understand how the parts are different, so understanding the theme - weather, pets, school - is easier. That's learning, right there.

Ambitious, and brilliant.

The second biggest thing is that my 2 y.o. loves her some Elmo... while also loving Cookie Monster, Grover, Bert, Earnie and "BuBird!" We just had an Elmo-themed birthday party. We bought her a pet betta fish (and a nice 3 gallon tank, up on a bookshelf where she can look but not touch), and when we asked her what we should name the fish, she said, "Boo! Fish is Boo!" We were expecting "Dorothy" as she knows the name and shouts it whenever she sees a fish.

Also, I really like the new human characters, Chris and Leela, and the friendship between Telly Monster and Baby Bear, fundamentally incompatible characters (one is a neurotic monster who teaches geometry, the other is a fairy-tale bear with a lisp and an infuriating self-satisfaction who teaches family dynamics) who none the less work together, is sweet and compelling.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:22 PM on September 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Thanks for the update, anastasiav. Not a Grover fanboy so I don't really care, but I still found his fall from grace rather ruthless.

As a reward, here is a v.rare picture of a young Herry Monster wearing pants. Boy, that is one ugly farking family.

http://i56.tinypic.com/wlss5l.jpg
posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:30 PM on September 28, 2011


Gonzo can take Elmo any day.

(The description of an older puppeteer throwing the elmo against the wall in frustration makes me curious to see a bit more, it'd be real interesting to compare pre and post Clash Elmos)
posted by sammyo at 8:31 PM on September 28, 2011


Thank you uncanny hengeman for the new FB avatar.
posted by jwhite1979 at 8:37 PM on September 28, 2011


Like Slap Happy and others, I changed my mind about Elmo when my kids took such delight in seeing him. We don't watch the shows much, but see him a lot on DVDs.

Baby Bear, on the other hand, is pure torture. Barney Frank was my congressman for many years, so I'm ok with being condescended to by someone with a pronounced lisp. But Barney has many redeeming qualities. Baby Bear, on the other hand, has none that I'm aware of.
posted by Cassford at 8:39 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


t'd be real interesting to compare pre and post Clash Elmos

Here you go
posted by anastasiav at 8:47 PM on September 28, 2011


Elmo is vapid and I resent him the way I resented Scooby Doo. Oscar, now THERE'S a goddamn muppet.
posted by flotson at 9:01 PM on September 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


However, could it be that there is an Elmo backlash brewing?

I've been backlashing against Elmo ever since I saw an episode of Sesame Street about ten years ago and saw that he had his own world. I would say the Elmo backlash is brewed.
posted by madcaptenor at 9:29 PM on September 28, 2011


Elmo does his version of "Single Ladies" and I just don't know anymore....

But I want to see this documentary - the determination and success seems to make a compelling story.
posted by Salmonberry at 9:37 PM on September 28, 2011


Ok, reading the thread I'm convinced that Elmo is a force for good. And sometimes hilarious.
posted by flotson at 9:49 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


My first favorite memory of Elmo is when he anchored a NASA Q&A with some astronauts for a room full of tweeters or teachers, and one of them came on to him pretty strongly. For once, he was speechless.

The second favorite memory is when he did a duet with Katy Perry, Katy Perry sings "Hot N Cold" with Elmo on Sesame Street!, the one that Sesame Street pulled because she was wearing a supposedly skimpy dress, and they couldn't take the bad press (previously).
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:54 PM on September 28, 2011


Kevin Clash is pretty awesome, but to me, Elmo will always seem like the poor man's infantile, squealing Grover.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 9:56 PM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Q&A with Clash at Sundance.
posted by gen at 10:00 PM on September 28, 2011


A friend took me to see this when it was at a festival in our town several months ago, we loved it. One of my dreams has always been to hug a Muppet, and now I can say that I have.
posted by pinky at 10:04 PM on September 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Burning Elmo.
posted by showmethecalvino at 10:10 PM on September 28, 2011


GROVER IS BITTER
posted by not_on_display at 10:31 PM on September 28, 2011


Grover not bitter! Elmo is little monster, Grover is BIG monster. Grover get to do things Elmo no get to do. Grover know things Elmo do not know.

Is not all fun and games being bigger than Elmo. Elmo not old enough to be scared of Monster At The End Of This Book.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:44 PM on September 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


showmethecalvino, I was fully expecting to be Rickrolled to the St Elmo's Fire trailer.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 11:58 PM on September 28, 2011


Did Grover spoil Star Wars V for anyone? Even at my young philistine every-meal-tastes-better-with-ketchup age I'm thinking "did they have to cast the voice of farking Grover as Yoda?"

Like going to a sperm bank and only having pictures of Dawn Fraser to wank to: it just wasn't happening in my imagination. It was a ridiculous choice. Ruined a huge part of the movie for me.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 12:34 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've been backlashing against Elmo ever since I saw an episode of Sesame Street about ten years ago and saw that he had his own world. I would say the Elmo backlash is brewed.

If he stayed in it, it wouldn't be so bad. Problem is, he escapes regularly to the Street itself. Ugh.

That said, my daughter loves that Mr. Noodle. Lord knows why, but he cracks her up.
posted by madajb at 2:55 AM on September 29, 2011


In last week's season premiere of The Office, James Spader's character had this to say about Elmo:
Elmo. God save us -- the Elmo era.

Sesame Street was created to reflect the environment of the children watching it. [The] complete self-absorption of Elmo is brilliantly reflective of our time. Ours is a cultural ghetto -- wouldn't you agree?
I've always hated Elmo, but I've never been able to articulate why with such clarity.

Kevin Clash does seem like a great guy, though.
posted by Spire at 3:07 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Backlash brewing? At least since 2006.
"Elmo doesn't grow. People show him something and he laughs. He doesn't learn a lesson," says Lee. "It's the exact opposite of what old 'Sesame Street' used to do. Elmo has been learning the same lesson his whole life, which is that Elmo likes Elmo."
posted by Jonathan Harford at 4:31 AM on September 29, 2011


Grover's been making a big comeback the past couple of seasons.

Yeah, Grover's daily appearances on the Street scenes had been eliminated because Frank Oz is Grover and the man is super busy. A few years ago, Muppeteer Eric Jacobson took over most of Frank's roles on SS (except Cookie Monster...who is played by David Rudman)and with the Muppets proper,

Oz still does a day or two every year to record new Bert and Ernie sketches with Steve Whitmire and that's really the extent of his involvement in any puppeteering now. He declined to be involved in the upcoming "The Muppets" film for Disney, saying that he didn't like the script.
posted by inturnaround at 5:58 AM on September 29, 2011


He declined to be involved in the upcoming "The Muppets" film for Disney, saying that he didn't like the script.
My enthusiasm for the film has gone down a bit. Then again, this is coming from the guy who directed The Stepford Wives...
posted by pxe2000 at 6:12 AM on September 29, 2011


"Elmo doesn't grow. People show him something and he laughs. He doesn't learn a lesson," says Lee. "It's the exact opposite of what old 'Sesame Street' used to do.

I don't think this is true. Grover never learned to be a good waiter/superhero/whatever. Bert never learned how to deal with Ernie's annoyances or to just get a new roommate already. Big Bird never learned Mr. Hooper's name until it was too late. The piano composer guy never became a better lyricist. Cookie Monster always had Poor Impulse Control.

Why (besides that it wouldn't be as funny)? Because the show, while containing some continuing themes and stories and histories that cross episodes, is not really meant to be a serial. If you turn on the TV for any random episode and see Grover in a restaurant, you know hows it's going to go. You're not going to be thinking "Hmm well this season Grover has really been working on his comprehension skills. Last episode he only messed up the drinks order. I bet he'll get the whole order right this time." You don't have to explain to your child about how wacky Ernie used to be before he and Bert went to Ask Metafilter for ideas on how to reach an understanding about respectfully sharing space.

New characters might change until they hit their mark - but once they are established they remain, for the most part, the same. So Elmo will always love you and will always annoy you if he annoys you now.

I think he is masterfully performed, but I always thought it was "unfair" to the other Muppets (and less interesting for kids) when you would have him in a large part of the regular show then have him take over the second half of the show with Elmo's World. But then, I'm old enough to be chasing anyone taking screen time from Grover off my lawn and I assume that the professional educators, performers, etc. are getting good results with what they are doing so I can't complain too much.
posted by mikepop at 6:12 AM on September 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


I dont' believe anyone hates Elmo. I believe they are redirecting the hate they feel for Mr. Noodle & Co.

Now Caillou---F that little, whiney kid.
posted by stormpooper at 7:13 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: Like going to a sperm bank and only having pictures of Dawn Fraser to wank to.
posted by dr_dank at 7:22 AM on September 29, 2011


"What I like best about Elmo is the tickling."
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 7:27 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


He's from Turner's Station in Baltimore, the same neighborhood where Henrietta Lacks was from (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks).
posted by stbalbach at 7:29 AM on September 29, 2011


Elmo was the first character my son recognized. Weirded us out, because we don't watch current episodes of Sesame Street (he has the Old School disks, vols 1 and 2 - 1970's 'Street and nothing but) and on top of that we really try to limit his TV time. We can only surmise he picked it up at day care. Ugh.

To his credit, without any prompting from us, these days (age 2.5) he doesn't give a crap about Elmo. He recognizes the beast, sure, but when it's time for a new diaper he insists on the one with Cookie Monster on it. He takes his Cookie Monster doll to bed with him most nights, and occasionally to day care (his absolute favorite toy is a plush cat from Ikea, though). He has a Cookie Monster costume for Halloween. If we ask him what is in the box on the porch (when Fedex or UPS show up) he almost always guesses "Cookie Monshter in da box?"

I'm delighted he likes an old-school Sesame Street character the best. I can't stand the red beast. It's screechy, it's high-pitched frenetic gibberish, it's not the Sesame Street I knew growing up. It seems to me that the dumbing-down Elmo represents is everything Jim Henson hated about children's programming.

My son's response is encouraging to me. He doesn't respond to Elmo. My sister (who also has a two-year-old who could give a crap about Elmo) thinks it's because Elmo is such a juvenile character that our kids outgrew the little brat by the time they started talking. It could be true. I'd like to think so.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:31 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I dont' believe anyone hates Elmo. I believe they are redirecting the hate they feel for Mr. Noodle & Co.

Now Caillou---F that little, whiney kid.


Nope, I fully hate Elmo. I didn't even know who Mr Noodle was until I looked it up. My 2.5 year old son LOVES Elmo, but we have to limit it to small doses because it's just too much. Once a week, max. Thank god that's enough for him (though he has to get his daily dose of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, which is starting to grate somewhat).

And yes, fuck Caillou so hard. Thank GOD my son doesn't like that show, we've caught one or two episodes when it came on after another show, and OH MY GOD.
posted by antifuse at 7:40 AM on September 29, 2011


If we ask him what is in the box on the porch (when Fedex or UPS show up) he almost always guesses "Cookie Monshter in da box?"

Where do I send it?
posted by mikepop at 7:47 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


To his credit, without any prompting from us, these days (age 2.5) he doesn't give a crap about Elmo.

I don't think Elmo is anymore inherently appealing than any of the other Muppets/Sesame Street characters. It is really one of those cases where I think the media/advertising industry has manufactured demand.

We haven't shown my daughter (2.75) any TV or DVDs yet, but she's still had considerable exposure to Sesame Street--she has Elmo slippers (grandma), we've read Sesame Street books (other grandma), we've had a few Sesame Street stickers, she's had Elmo, Cookie Monster, and Bert & Ernie toothbrushes; and we have Sesame Street band-aids, at the least. Phew ... so much for avoiding the consumer media trap!

I think her loyalties are split pretty evenly between Big Bird, Ernie (we like to make up funny names for B&E like Burnt and Hungry :), the Count, and a new orange/red girl I call Esmeralda, but now that I look it up, that's obviously wrong. Maybe Zoe?

I've never understood the appeal of Elmo, but then again, as mentioned, I've never seen the show with him, only seen the merch. And lots and lots of it.

Where's the Sesame Street Muppet who explains how TV's main purposes is to sell you things you don't need? It needs to be voiced by Carol Channing.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:27 AM on September 29, 2011


I don't think Elmo is anymore inherently appealing than any of the other Muppets/Sesame Street characters. It is really one of those cases where I think the media/advertising industry has manufactured demand.

Anecdata: my 2.5 year old won't watch Sesame Street. Refuses. Anything with any muppets other than Elmo? He has NO interest. But pop in an Elmo DVD and he will be glued to it, unmoving. There's quite a bit of difference between "Elmo as merch" and "Elmo on TV" in terms of appeal to kids, I think.
posted by antifuse at 9:17 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


hiding behind the couch from the typewriter? (Just me? Okay.)

SO not just you. Noonee noonee noonee noonee noo...

Still, not as scary as the Q. That Q had anger issues.

(And don't get me started on the monolith from Electric Company. That sent me running for my mom.)
posted by cereselle at 9:34 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


flapjax at midnite: ""Poppyseed Street" didn't have the alliteration going for it."

Yeah - but this Poppyseed hits all the right parts. And this video remix somebody made w/an old sample of some kids show really makes it even that much better.

(oh dear, I'm starting to link like using reddit's linking code!)

Anyways, never was a fan of Elmo, he was just a mildly more retarded version of Grover on speed. Well I liked him at first, he was cute, but then yeah - oversaturatation. But at least he's not Baby Bear. Oh god, I would commit infanticide on Baby Bear. It's like the elmoization of elmo.

I guess after reading the comments here, though, that if it keeps kids interested, if they can still be "hooked" on S.S. and watch that for education (as opposed to some stupid snot-infested nickelodeon humor shows) then I guess it's the price I'll take.

I did see some recent clips on youtube that was pretty damn good - I had my roomie watch this parody of Glee, and she got a kick out of it. I don't know enough about Glee, but she said the characters were all right on, and everything.

So it's got something for the adults and the kids, still.

I still think Snuffy should never have come out of the mental closet of Bird, though. He was so much better as an imaginary friend. But I understand you can't play that schtick for years.
posted by symbioid at 10:32 AM on September 29, 2011


When I was watching Sesame Street, Elmo was transitioning to being the mega star of that show. After I grew out of the show, I never found him or the market campaign behind him annoying because he was geared towards little kids. I wasn't a little kid anymore so this whole "Elmo is horrible" backlash is baffling to me.

I feel like all of this "hate" for Elmo is just another instance of cynical Generation X/Early Generation Y internet identity crisis of realizing AGAIN the world has moved on without them. It's not your show anymore guys/girls. Let it go.

Plus, as a kid when I found out that the puppeteer of Elmo was black it made me happy because at the time I didn't know black people could be puppeteers.

(Yeah spew your cynical jokes at that but if you grew up where I grew up finding out a black man could be a puppeteer blew my mind.)
posted by LilSoulBrother85 at 11:44 AM on September 29, 2011 [10 favorites]


I'm the stay at home parent to a two-and-a-half year old girl who loves Elmo. I think it's a pretty decent influence on her, and here's why.

Like the current advice recommends, we didn't let the kiddo watch any tv until after she was two years old. Now we let her watch one episode of Sesame Street a day. She doesn't watch Disney films, with their pretty princesses. She doesn't watch Baby Einstein or any of the other newer dvd programs targeted at teaching toddlers pre-kindergarten subjects like math or the alphabet. All she gets is Sesame Street, and all she gets is that one. Episode. A. Day.*

As a stay at home mom, I have so much control on what stimulants and experiences go into her, and I can see what comes out as a result. One thing I'm learning is that so far she is really too young to learn about conflict resolution by watching television.

I came to understand why and better appreciate Elmo by reading the book Nurtureshock, which talks about what young kids are learning from television. Kids aren't learning from Baby Einstein, or other educational DVDs. Alot of what they are actually learning from television isn't so much colors and shapes, but rather behavior, and not necessarily the behavior we want them to learn. The book notes that all those shows that are trying to teach kids how to resolve conflict by setting up a conflict in the first twenty minutes and then resolving it quickly at the end are not really doing what they were intended. Young kids are not understanding that the conflict is a problem to be fixed, and as often as not they are simply going to imitate the problematic behavior, because that's what you are showing them. Show them twenty minutes of fighting resolved by 5 minutes of cooperation and more often than not the behavior that they will take away from that is the fighting, not the cooperation.

This fascination with imitation perfectly describes my daughter at this age. She imitates me cooking in the kitchen in her own small kitchen. She imitates the way other kids dance when she sees them dancing. When she saw Abby on Sesame Street had a wand, we had to get some sticks with string on them so she could tap things with her wand, too. In short, if you show our daughter something that she thinks has half a chance of being fun, chances are she will imitate it just to see what happens.

As a result of our "monkey see, monkey do" monkey, we try to be careful with her inputs. So, for example, those books about "How Do Dinosaurs [DO] [SOMETHING]?" that show dinosaurs throwing tantrums about going to bed for 20 pages and then resolve by saying, "no, they don't do it that way, then go gently into their beds" -- we don't read her the words to those, because we'd just be teaching her how to throw a tantrum. (See also, llamas.) And so far, she doesn't have that kind of tantrum where she screams and throws things all over the room.

And the shows that have kids insulting or being mean to other kids and then resolving in the last few minutes so that the bully apologizes -- she doesn't watch those shows either** because we don't want her to imitate the negative behavior.

So this Elmo character who is always affable and never fights or gets mad (can you believe this? Maybe he gets frustrated when he is trying to open his drawer, but I have never once seen Elmo get angry at another person or monster! Even when Big Bird broke his tricycle!! Holy crap!!!) and just wants to go out and play and jump and ride his tricycle and show people he loves them? Great! Bring him on! I mean, I get it that adults are past this, and that alot of us like to see conflict and depression and people who aren't sunny all the time. Sure, Elmo is too simple for us. But hey, Sesame Street isn't actually targeted at us, it's aimed at little kids, and guess what? They don't really need more conflict than they already have in their little lives. Elmo shows positive behaviors, over and over and over and over, and I am pretty happy with my daughter the imitator watching and learning from that. She will never, as long as I am alive and in the same room, watch Spongebob Squarepants.

I'm sure my daughter will outgrow Elmo, and Sesame Street, and Santa Claus, and her innocence. But I love watching her be a free-spirited child with a child's enthusiasms, including Elmo. Someday things will get more complicated, and I'll have to adapt. But I don't see a need for her to grow up any more quickly than she already is.

Some of the haters in this thread sound kind of immature to me. Because thirty-year-olds don't have enough television programming targeted at them, and Elmo should be aimed more at them, too! Really? Let the little kids have Elmo in this one little corner, and you can have all the other shiny toys on TV.

Or, what LilSoulBrother85 said in many fewer words.

* Honestly as a stay-at-home mom sometimes it is hard to limit it to one. I can understand how some kids get to watch alot more television. Toddlers have so much energy, it can really be exhausting!

** Though actually there actually are a few episodes of Sesame Street that are a bit like this involving Goldilocks stealing porridge and other nursery rhyme goodies, but the bullying here isn't really represented physically -- e.g., there is no fighting -- and I have lots of conversations with her while we're watching these together. I know I sound kind of uptight here, but I am only this way with television, transfats, and BPAs. Don't judge me!
posted by onlyconnect at 12:35 PM on September 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


I still think Snuffy should never have come out of the mental closet of Bird, though. He was so much better as an imaginary friend. But I understand you can't play that schtick for years.

It turns out there was a very specific reason that they revealed Snuffy to the adults. From wikipedia:

In an interview on a Canadian telethon that was hosted by Bob McGrath, Snuffy's performer, Martin P. Robinson, revealed that Snuffy was finally introduced to the main human cast mainly due to a string of high profile and sometimes graphic stories of pedophilia[citation needed] and sexual abuse of children that had been aired on shows such as 60 Minutes and 20/20. The writers felt that by having the adults refuse to believe Big Bird despite the fact that he was telling the truth, they were scaring children into thinking that their parents would not believe them if they had been sexually abused and that they would just be better off remaining silent.
posted by nushustu at 2:27 PM on September 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


What do you mean Elmo is not any good for grown ups?
posted by b33j at 6:17 PM on September 29, 2011


And yes, fuck Caillou so hard.

Wow. I guess you one upped me in the sick department. :) Here! Here!

I will say I give Kevin Clash a lot of credit for making a living out of something that is total fantasy and far fetched, even more so than rockstar or actor. Good for him. Gives a lot of people hope that they can make it.

Well not me. I've proven I'm not going anywhere but still OTHER PEOPLE.
posted by stormpooper at 7:00 AM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wasn't a little kid anymore so this whole "Elmo is horrible" backlash is baffling to me.

I feel like all of this "hate" for Elmo is just another instance of cynical Generation X/Early Generation Y internet identity crisis of realizing AGAIN the world has moved on without them. It's not your show anymore guys/girls. Let it go.


For me, the Elmo hate has nothing to do with missing the "good ol' days" of Sesame Street, and everything to do with the fact that ELMO IS SUPER ANNOYING AND MY SON LOVES HIM SO MUCH. Lol. If I didn't have kids, I wouldn't give a crap about Elmo.
posted by antifuse at 8:49 AM on September 30, 2011


I think most of the writers at CTW had nothing but the best intentions when they introduced Elmo to Sesame Street. I also believe most of the government had nothing but the best intentions when they ordered the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
posted by britain at 9:21 AM on September 30, 2011


Oh, and onlyconnect -- resist the urge to sit down one rainy day with the "Elmo in Grouchland" movie. There is some Elmo behavior at the beginning you wouldn't want her to copy.
posted by britain at 9:27 AM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


For me, the Elmo hate has nothing to do with missing the "good ol' days" of Sesame Street, and everything to do with the fact that ELMO IS SUPER ANNOYING AND MY SON LOVES HIM SO MUCH. Lol. If I didn't have kids, I wouldn't give a crap about Elmo.

Anything can be annoying to an adult if a kid is loves it so much.
posted by LilSoulBrother85 at 11:18 AM on September 30, 2011


Because thirty-year-olds don't have enough television programming targeted at them, and Elmo should be aimed more at them, too! Really? Let the little kids have Elmo in this one little corner, and you can have all the other shiny toys on TV.

One thing I remember reading about the Elmo controversy a few years ago (and this may be totally wrong; I have no idea where I read it) is that the promotion of Elmo over other characters was part of a change in Sesame Street's target demographic from maybe ages 4-6 to more like 2-4, as parents started letting their kids watch tv at younger ages and elementary schoolers became too "sophisticated" for shows like Sesame Street. If this is true, it really is a different show from the one we remember. I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing, but it does explain some of the crankiness on the part of older fans.

I grew up in a house where no tv was allowed except for PBS. This became increasingly frustrating as I got older (once I grew out of stuff like Bill Nye and Ghostwriter, there was nothing for me to watch, so the rule had by default become "no tv"), but looking back, I really appreciate what my parents were trying to do. Sesame Street will always mean a lot to me, and despite my feelings about Elmo, I am really psyched to see this movie.
posted by naoko at 8:11 PM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anything can be annoying to an adult if a kid is loves it so much.

Sure, but there's different levels of annoyance. I've seen the same 10 episodes of Mickey Mouse clubhouse a whole BUNCH of times, because it's pretty much all my son wants to watch, but I can still put up with it (as long as it's only one episode a day - seeing the same episode more than once in a day will put me over the edge). But I can't stand even one sit through of anything Elmo, it's just so cloying and babyish and GAH. I hate when people talk in the third person around their kids (eg "Does Billy want daddy to give him a piggy back? Ok! Daddy will give Billy a piggy back!"), and the fact that Elmo is always talking in the third person drives me BONKERS.
posted by antifuse at 7:16 AM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


we don't read her the words to those, because we'd just be teaching her how to throw a tantrum. (See also, llamas.)

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, because (assuming you're referring to Llama, Llama, Red Pajama) I also don't like that book much, but my mother-in-law has it, and I've read it to my 2 y.o many times (she likes it OK, mostly for the drawing style and rhyming--she loves rhyming).

For those of you who don't know, the protagonist of Llama, Llama is a young llama (surprise) in red pajamas (surprise) who gets scared after Mama (of the title) leaves him to go to sleep for the night. He/she (undefined gender) gets more and more upset, yelling "Mama! Mama!" while Mama is busy with various tasks (telephone, kitchen, etc.). Since Mama doesn't come running, Llama, Llama works himself/herself into a frenzied rage, yelling "Mama! Mama!" louder and louder, until Mama eventually comes and says "Hey, cool it, I was busy. You need to be patient, etc."

It is a contentious book--Amazon users tend to give it either 5 stars (216) or 1 star (14). Those who hate it are generally parents whose children were frightened by Llama Llama terrified expressions and screaming, plus the fact that Mama isn't responding. I think some users also accuse the book of trying to promote the "Cry It Out" sleep philosophy.

(FWIW, I think there is an interesting and valuable message there--Mama is her own person with her own life.)

Anyway, I don't think that's your concern. Your concern seems to be with books that teach kids bad behavior, and then don't explain how it can be realistically corrected?

That came up recently with my own mom, who took my daughter to the library right after the birth of her little sister. My mom wouldn't read my older daughter "Barfburger Baby, I Was Here First" for the same reasons you suggest: it illustrates bad behavior (being jealous of a new baby; calling a new baby bad names) and then resolves it rather unrealistically (older brother gets more mature magically).

Anyway, I didn't have a discussion with my mom, but I've been thinking about that a lot since. Mostly my opinion is that, while young kids are master mimics and they learn so much from everyone and everything, including fictional characters in books, they also, by age 2 or so, have the ability to discern other personalities and ego, i.e. that other people have their own worlds with their own fears, emotions, etc etc.

I tend to take those books (and there are, not surprisingly a lot of them, as children love books about children behaving badly) as opportunities to establish that distinction between other people/children and herself. There are some people who act badly, but that doesn't mean that she can. That's an important lesson, I think.

And as far as the dinosaurs go, I've never read those books, but I also think there's value in illustrating negative feelings and behaviors. I think it's better to face and openly discuss things like disobeying, pouting, tantrums, etc. instead of just ignoring them and thinking they don't apply to me or my kid.

I mean, what about Max in Where the Wild Things Are? He's kind of a punk and a jerk and he doesn't learn any lesson, but he still gets his supper at the end. ??
posted by mrgrimm at 9:17 AM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


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