Posted by: Billy Marsh | November 23, 2007

Sesame Street For The Real World

Follow That Bird/FrontThe entertainment world is making loads of money by resurrecting old television shows, restoring them, and placing them on DVD for your viewing pleasure. My memories of “old school” t.v. are actually something that I do not regret nor do I resent my parents for having a t.v. However, what came on t.v. back then was much different than what is on nowadays. But, I’m sure every generation will make that statement at some point, especially since the “times are always a changin’ “. Still, a testimony to what I believe verifies the quality of the shows I grew up on is that now they are being made into movies, whether they’re worth watching or not. This goes especially for my childhood cartoons like Transformers or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Follow That Bird/Back

But, even more so, I grew up on Sesame Street as I’m sure many of you did as well. My parents still have a lot of my childhood toys and keepsakes of which there are some old school Sesame Street memorabilia, maybe even some things that now people consider collectibles. However, none of my things are in mint condition. They were toys for me. And I assuredly treated them that way! Here are also some pictures of an old vinyl record that I still have. It’s the soundtrack album for the first ever Sesame Street movie called “Follow That Bird“. I think Mom and Dad took me to the theaters to see it too (1985?). The LP has guest stars such as Waylon Jennings, Alabama, and Ronnie Milsap. And, when you open the record flaps there is also a board game you can play. Bring back Vinyls!! They have so much more personality and worth than impersonal, downloadable mp3’s. Don’t even get me started on that topic!

Follow That Bird/Inside

But, I was utterly dumbfounded when I read the article, “Sweeping the Clouds Away” written by Virginia Heffernan in “The New York Times” a few days ago on the release of volumes 1 and 2 of Sesame Street on DVD. It’s called Sesame Street: Old School. The article warns that the original seasons are for “adults-only”. I immediately thought to myself, what did I miss growing up? It always seemed innocent to me. Better yet, what did my parents miss? We only had one t.v. growing up, which was located in the main living room, so I never watched anything unmonitored. However, as I continued to read the article, I quickly picked up on the heavy sarcasm, which was most obviously used as a rhetorical device to show how unrealistic are the worlds that we try to create for children in modern times. Here are some pieces of the article:

These early Sesame Street episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of today’s preschool child. . . . The masonry on the dingy brownstone at 123 Sesame Street, where the closeted Ernie and Bert shared a dismal basement apartment, was deteriorating. Cookie Monster was on a fast track to diabetes. Oscar’s depression was untreated. Prozacky Elmo didn’t exist.

Reading this article is quite saddening, though one can’t help but chuckle at how ridiculous we’ve become. My Dad and I were just talking a few days ago about how unprepared today’s youths are for the ‘real world’. Growing up now everything is taken care of for them, and there’s no such thing as spoiling a child anymore; it has just simply become something they deserve. My wife is a teacher, and she has to give everyone a sticker even when only one person got the answer right. I helped out an elementary school carnival recently where I ran a game, needless to say I was flabbergasted. There were two types of games to choose from in all. (1) The games where they are designed that you cannot lose, and thus everyone who plays gets a prize; (2) The games where even if you do lose, the child still receives the same prize as those who win. How absurd and counterproductive!

Here’s another few startling lines from the article:

Nothing in the children’s entertainment of today, candy-colored animation hopped up on computer tricks, can prepare young or old for this frightening glimpse of simpler times. . . . Live action cows also charge the 1969 screen-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.

It is amazing at how much of a bubble we really try and live in these days. I’m still blown away at just how fragile seminary students are. Good health, a good, honest work ethic, unfailing loyalty, and wholesome integrity seem to be things of the past rather than aspirations of a future generation. Qualities not for the faint of heart. Suddenly, the things that I look back on and cherish have become too graphic for the innocence and complexity of the 21st century. I fear that the bubble we’ve created for ourselves is so full of hot air that it will not be long before it busts and people are exposed to the fact that the rest of the world does not live like us. I recently saw a video of some overseas Christians in a hostile land where the children were digging up roots and eating them in order to keep themselves from starving. I’m pretty sure that their hands weren’t washed. I bet Sesame Street: Old School would look like a magic kingdom to them. Click here and read the article for yourself.



  1. Most of your readers probably don’t know that when you were 3 years old you had your own hatchet and spent much of your days out in the woodpile chopping wood! The world you grew up in was a little different even than the world at that time. It is unbelievable to me how “soft” our society is becoming. I suggest reading the Old Testament to find out how “rough” people can be outside of the bubble.

  2. Well I’m gonna throw cold water all over you this morning, Billy. Sesame Street, Ninja Turtles and Transformers were not allowed with my boys. (They probably watched other stuff that was worse!?) I was raised on Captain Kangaroo myself. My cartoons growing up were “Mighty Mouse”, “Popeye the Sailer Man”, Felix the Cat, Pink Panther, Bugs Bunny and the Roadrunner, The Flintstones, and the best of all JOHNNY QUEST.

  3. Hey, I watched all of those too even though those cartoons were around long before I came into this world. And, I know Dad watched plenty of Johnny Quest too. However, older versions of even some of those cartoons may be considered too “rough” for today’s children such as Popeye who is ready to fight at any minute or Wylie E. Coyote who in every show is a constant failure.

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