Sunday, November 25, 2007

On My Way To Where The Air Is Sweet

What exactly are the needs of "today's preschool child?"

I'm wondering because, with the release of a DVD set of the earliest Sesame Street episodes, ones that aired between 1969-1979--precisely the time I was hearing "Sunny Days" every day on the TV set as a child--comes accompanying the two volumes:

These early ‘Sesame Street’ episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of today’s preschool child.

Which I guess means "these Sesame Streets are only to be consumed by those over 30 while drinking beers, dredging jingles from the dark folds of memory (and realizing that Maria was hot and Mr. Hooper was not as old as he seemed to be back then), and not for intstructional use for Madison and Joshua, and Ethan and Emma.

I'm not a parent, but I perceive that moms and dads now must--no, are encouraged by some omniscient and omnipresent parental guiding forces, say, a hip but stringent Dr. Spock for the new millenium--gently ease their precious child, more unique and special than any snowflake, into each new phase of life.

As Virginia Heffernan pointed out in a recent New York Times column, the citizens of Sesame Street didn't claim to be Einstein, weren't really even our peers (even Bert and Ernie, with their own place and beds with the "B" and "E" on the headboards), and didn't have saccharine-sweetly high voices but were growly, grumbly, and beaky. And they certainly didn't help us to learn how to go to the bathroom.

Heffernan says:

People on “Sesame Street” had limited possibilities and fixed identities, and (the best part) you weren’t expected to change much. The harshness of existence was a given, and no one was proposing that numbers and letters would lead you “out” of your inner city to Elysian suburbs. Instead, “Sesame Street” suggested that learning might merely make our days more bearable, more interesting, funnier. It encouraged us, above all, to be nice to our neighbors and to cultivate the safer pleasures that take the edge off — taking baths, eating cookies, reading.

That's it: Sesame Street was an urban street. A decidedly urban street in the 1970s--which meant parity, not disparity, people of different colors, not white ones pushing two different-colored $1200 baby strollers, old edifaces and sometimes-dirty streets, not cinderblock statement homes and flowerbedded street corners.

And the "safer pleasures?" Now--not so safe. So maybe Cookie Monster should be called the "Fruit Monster?" Then it might seem as if he's gay. And then we'd have to explain gay and homosexuality.

And Oscar? Why, he'd scare the shit out of kids today, wouldn't he?

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