Did you think that Sesame Street was just for children? Well, for the most part it is but you’ll be surprised who else loves Sesame Street as well. The theme song starts in a manner that can brighten anyone’s day; ”Sunny day Sweepin’ the clouds away. On my way to where the air is sweet. Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street?” But to some the sound of those lyrics ain’t so sweet. The song continues: ”Come and play, everything’s A-OK. Friendly neighbours there that’s where we meet”. There are some places on the street where no one wants their kids to play and some of your neighbors just aren’t what they seem. The fun keeps coming with the third chorus: ”It’s a magic carpet ride. Every door will open wide, to happy people like you. What a beautiful Sunny Day”. The magic carpet ride can mean something else entirely, depending on who you are. In the end though, one will find truth in these lyrics, as all those that grew up on the show were happy people who would always see sunny days if they just remembered what they learnt on Sesame Street.
15. The Theme Song Was Used To Torture Terrorists
When you need your detainees to talk, and traditional methods do not work, what do you do next? Apparently torture was a big deal at Guantanamo Bay. However, the military used more than just waterboarding to get people to talk. Blasting children’s music into the ears of your captives works just as well. The Sesame Street theme song was favored by the military for just this type of thing. It would be blasted into the ears of the prisoner for days until they could handle no more. Only two other songs were as popular for torture; Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’ and Drowning Pool’s ‘Bodies’.
It’s almost as if some military parent decided that as painful as it was for themselves to hear their children play the same thing over and over again, it must have been even more painful for the suspected terrorists. Christopher Cerf, the creator of the theme song, along with a couple of hundred other tunes on the children’s show, stated that his first reaction was, “this can’t possibly be true; this is just too crazy, it was just absurd. I didn’t really like the idea that I was helping to break down prisoners, but it was much worse when I heard later that they were actually using the music in Guantanamo to do deep interrogations to inflict long-term pain on prisoners so that they would talk.” The Pentagon considered this ploy a mere “disincentive”.
14. According To Some, Sesame Street Might Just Hate America
Sesame Street was government funded for the first 46 years of its existence. In the last few years money was tight and the show was continuously in the red. In the 2012 election, Mitt Romney even threatened to terminate funding for the show if elected. Not that this explains the fact that Big Bird ate the American Flag live on air in 2015. Just before the big yellow thing gulped the last piece of the flag, outraged parents flooded Twitter with disgust. 25,000 people signed a petition against the show.
The executives of the show defended the act by saying, “Big Bird is always trying to do the right thing. Sometimes he makes mistakes, but he knows every mistake is a lesson. Children aren’t meant to imitate him, but to learn from his curiosity and earnest spirit. When we address uncomfortable topics, like we did yesterday, it’s that spirit that helps us handle them with the respect they require.”
13. Sesame Street Taught Kids How To Smoke A Pipe And To Disobey Authorities
Remember that Sesame Street started in 1969, just as hippie culture was ending. Believe it or not, when the show was purchased, it was originally intended for adults. When it was shown on TV, it kept just enough adult material to keep parents interested along with their kids. In an NPR interview in 2009, this is the logic that the show’s producers used to justify those early episodes showing the Cookie Monster, not just eating cookies, but smoking a pipe. Those episodes also showed Grover (who was green at the time) involving himself in civil disobedience with hippies after being told: “someone has to be last in line.” Grover tries to change his position and is trampled. By 1970 the whole hippie movement ended. The DVDs of the first season even came with the following disclaimer: “These early Sesame Street episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of today’s preschool child.”
12. Bert Rallied For Osama Bin Laden
Back in the Post 9/11 world, Anti-American and pro Al-Qaeda rallies were prominent throughout the Muslim world. Even Bangladesh, a country not known for such radicalism, got in the act. A couple of weeks after the Twin Towers fell, a poster circulated everywhere at a rally in Bangladesh that featured Bert next to Osama Bin Laden. The poster, downloaded from a now defunct website called Bert is Evil, made it appear as if Bert had joined the Taliban. The website also showed pictures of Bert plotting the JFK assassination. In the end the whole thing was obviously a hoax created by Brad Fitzgerald. According to ABC News, a Bangladeshi print shop just downloaded the wrong picture for the rally. As one would expect, the executives at Sesame Street were furious and promptly threatened to sue the comedian who immediately shut down his website.
11. Bert And Ernie Are Not Gay, Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That
Bert just seems to always be picked on. For decades, Sesame Street has been in trouble from both sides of the fence for what too many people see as a weird friendship between Bert and Ernie. Some LGBT rights groups want the duo to come out of the closet, while people on the other side of the argument are wondering why children should be taught about these things at such an early age.
Back in 1993, Sesame Street producers tried to put an end to the discussion when they clearly stated that Bert and Ernie: “do not portray a gay couple, and there are no plans for them to do so in the future. Like all the Muppets created for Sesame Street, they were designed to help educate preschoolers. Bert and Ernie are characters who help demonstrate to children that despite their differences, they can be good friends.” That should put the debate to rest because apparently they are not gay, just happy to be together.
10. Elmo’s Puppeteer Was Acquitted For Having Inappropriate Relations With Five Teenage Boys
It’s a story that justifiably drew controversy a few years back. Kevin Clash, the voice and hands behind Elmo, was accused of having a s**ual relationship with a 16 year old boy. In the end Kevin admitted to having a relationship with this man as an adult. Of course he had to leave the show in 2012 until investigations could conclude his guilt or innocence.
The executives of the show released the following statement: “[Sesame Workshop] conducted a thorough investigation and found the allegation of underage conduct to be unsubstantiated. Although this was a personal relationship unrelated to the workplace, our investigation did reveal that Kevin exercised poor judgment and violated company policy regarding Internet usage and he was disciplined.” The Workshop did not disclose the nature of the transgressions. But the statement adds that: “Kevin insists that the allegation of underage conduct is false and defamatory and he is taking actions to protect his reputation.”
After this allegation was brought to the media, three more young men came out and claimed that the entertainer had inappropriate relations with them as a minor, and promptly pressed charges. In 2014, Kevin was cleared of all counts, because the young men waited more than six years to come out, thus they were outside the statute of limitations. Soon after, another young man pressed charges against Kevin. Charges were dismissed again for the same reasons.
9. The First African American Muppet Had To Go
Race relations are always tricky, and Sesame Street always tackled diversity and always tried to be role models to children when it came to acceptance. However, in 1975 Roosevelt Franklin, the first dark skinned Muppet had to be removed from the show after a five-year run after allegations that he promoted negative stereotypes of black children. In defense of the character, he was teaching children about Africa and values. In defense of the Parents who complained, he was a rowdy kid often in detention.
Sesame Street is the most studied TV show in history. Thousands of studies have been made on the show. And for every controversy there are countless studies demonstrating how wonderful this show is for early childhood development. In 1976 (a year after Roosevelt was canned) a study by Goldberg & Kamungo was released, concluding that viewing positive interactions of different ethnic groups on Sesame Street led to an increase in positive intergroup attitudes among preschool children.
8. Jim Henson, The Show’s Creator, Claimed That Women Weren’t Capable Enough To Write For The Show
In the early days the show took some flak for its lack of female Puppets. When one was finally created, Susan, the National Organization for Women (NOW) protested that this character was just a subservient, powerless dispenser of milk and cookies. Producers accepted the criticism and turned Susan into a Nurse and hired a female writer. According To Robert W. Morrow, author of Sesame Street and the Reform of Children’s Television, the addition of female characters was slow. Although the show’s research staff was predominantly female, the writers were mostly male, prompting activists to complain that this was the reason behind the gender inequality.
The real reason writers created more male characters is that market research and audience testing at the time showed that girls got attached to male characters more than female characters, as did boys. TV shows are there to make money as well. Jim Henson however, just added fuel to the fire by stating that women were incapable of withstanding the hectic schedule of a writer and just never applied for the job.
7. Israelis Didn’t Want An Arab Puppet
Diversity is a hallmark of this show. Study after study shows that Sesame Street does a wonderful job instilling tolerance of others among preschoolers. Apparently some Israeli parents are not into that sort of thing. In 2006, the Israeli version of Sesame Street featured an Arab puppet, Mahboub, who spoke both Hebrew and Arabic. The show’s goal was to teach tolerance and acceptance in a nation where 20% of its people are Arabs. The character had to be dropped because of public backlash. Everyone understands tensions are high between the two cultures, and this tension even trickled down to a preschool show.
6. In 2011, The Sesame Street YouTube Channel Displayed Adult Entertainment
On October 16th, 2011, the Sesame Street YouTube channel was temporarily hacked. Viewers were treated to some adult entertainment featuring love making (obviously not suitable for kids). YouTube quickly fixed the problem, but not before 148,000 adults and children viewed the offending material. “We apologize for any inconvenience our audience may have experienced on our Sesame Street YouTube channel,” Sesame Workshop said in a statement. Adding, “Our channel was compromised and we worked with YouTube/Google to restore our original content. We always strive to provide age-appropriate content for our viewers.” Age-appropriate was definitely not a term to describe what went on there.
5. Sesame Street Accused Of Ageism, Fires Its Oldest Actors
A few weeks back, Sesame Street did the unthinkable by firing the three oldest actors on the show who had been with the program for almost 50 years. Those let go were Bob McGrath, who played Bob the music teacher; Roscoe Orman, who played Gordon the science teacher; and Emilio Delgado, who played “Mr. Fix-It” Luis. McGrath called out executives by issuing a statement indicating that he was discriminated against because of his age.
A few days later the show apologized to the media but stopped short of rehiring the trio. They claimed that these actors’ hours had already been significantly cut since 2013. At the time, the performers were informed by Sesame Street that the storylines needed a makeover and that their characters would only appear as the plotlines permitted. Recently the show cut back to 30 minute episodes from their 5-decade tradition of hour long episodes. Hence, there was no more room for the actors.
4. Gordon, The Ultimate Father Figure…
‘Gordon the Science Teacher’ was the show’s first character. He and his TV wife owned the Brownstone where so many stories were told. In real-life, Roscoe Orman, the actor who portrays the science teacher, may not be such a role model after all. The man fired just last week dumped his partner of 40 years and left her penniless and homeless, according to allegations from his ex-partner, Sharon Orman.
According to her they were never officially married, but they did have four children together. Because the marriage was unofficial she may not be legally eligible for spousal support. Sometime in 2012, Roscoe cheated on his partner of 40 years, and left her a year later for this much younger woman and refused to give his ex partner any money. Sharon never worked in her life, spending all of her time raising her four children and according to her, she was evicted from the apartment they shared together after he stopped paying the rent. She now lives with one of her children. In Roscoe’s defense he did get his hours severely cut in 2013, as mentioned in the previous item.
3. Rich Kids Get A Better Education From The Show Than The Poor
Back in the 70s, Sesame Street developed an honorable cause as the show was dedicated to providing all children, rich and poor, with a quality preschool education. It succeeded immensely. As previously mentioned Sesame Street is studied by scholars everywhere in huge numbers. A minority of articles in the past claimed that rich kids received a better education from the show. It was hard to justify those findings until 2015. In recent years, Sesame Street was no longer making a profit, primarily due to a decrease in DVD sales. With online streaming, its number one revenue stream just died. Hence the show left PBS for HBO. It had no choice. As of now a decent sized portion of the population will not get to see the show, because not all parents are equipped to pay for premium movie channels. The show defends itself by saying that PBS will still air episodes nine months after they air on HBO. This may still work for everyone because it’s not as if three year old kids sit around the water cooler discussing the latest TV episodes, thus spoiling it for everyone.
2. The US Government Is Better Off Dropping Preschool Funding
How good is Sesame Street at educating young people? Even with some negative publicity about a lack of positive female characters, or a lack of positive minorities, or puppets that can’t construct sentences, study after study found that children who watch Sesame Street as preschoolers learn more than those who are enrolled in the Government’s Head Start program. While the government spends roughly $7k per year per student, studies show that Sesame Street would cost the government $5 per kid.
It’s not just about grammar, science and math, but it is also about Sesame Street’s superior methods of teaching children tolerance and integration with other races as well. Studies from Stanford and the University of Wisconsin proved this. In essence, the world would be a better place if we all gave up on sending our kids to expensive preschools and glued them in front of the TV to watch this show. At what other time did multiple studies ever demonstrate that TV was better for kids?
1. TV Minister Jerry Falwell Welcomes Puppet With AIDS
In 2002 Africa was suffering from an AIDS epidemic. It still is. To highlight this epidemic, the South African edition created Kami, an HIV positive Muppet whose mother died of AIDS. Bill Clinton and the UN openly praised the move. Viewers in the United States would not accept such a character. Everyone from the right and the left was adamant about one thing or another. What is surprising was that Kami had another fan in the USA, Jerry Falwell, one of the most Conservative of all preachers. Sesame Street even brought Bill and Jerry together.