Last week was a busy time in the news world. It was the beginning of a new year. A time to start fresh.
Denialist and Senator Ted Cruz finally acknowledged 2021’s insurrection as “a violent terrorist attack on the Capitol.” And then changed his mind on Fox News. On Thursday, President Biden commemorated the anniversary of one of the ugliest days in the U.S.’s recent history with a powerful speech. That same day, one of cinema’s greats, Sydney Poitier, passed away. And on Friday, the three men who killed Ahmaud Arbery were sentenced the life in prison.
Yet, what was going viral on social media was a 2004 video of Sesame Street’s perpetual toddler, Elmo flipping out on a pet rock about a cookie.
Let me state this again. One of the biggest news stories during a historic week was a nearly two-decade-old video of a TV muppet yelling at an inanimate object over baked goods.
Is life in the real world becoming so dark that even television’s happiest and most inclusive neighbourhood is no longer safe from its ugliness?
Elmo’s had an issue with his friend Zoe’s pet rock “Rocco” for years. Zoe treats Rocco like a living, breathing person. Elmo thinks it’s silly and refuses to indulge her make-believe world. In fact, he gets downright exasperated by it. We can all relate.
However, some are offended that Elmo is being so cruel to Zoe (and Rocco). They question his often-lauded communication skills and his obvious lack of patience. Others are wondering if he’s still an appropriate role model for children.
Viewers seem to have forgotten that the residents of Sesame Street have never been perfect. They’ve been selfish – until they were taught to share. They’ve been ignorant – until they were shown better. They’ve been wrong – until they learned to apologize.
Elmo is a perfect example for the phrase “Nobody’s perfect.” He’s frustrated with the little world he lives in. Aren’t we all?
Perhaps that’s why the public is reacting so strongly to his viral video outrage. Right now, there’s a lot to be angry about in the world. But it’s pretty hard to have an old-fashioned “freak-out” wearing a mask and standing six feet apart. So we’re letting the falsetto-voiced muppet be our surrogate.
Then there’s the need to let it go. We love to play “Gotcha” with public figures – to the point of making it a sport. And there’s nothing better than to take down a present-day giant with something they said or did in the past.
But this is Elmo. Do we want to take him down?
Maybe remembering that even cute little Elmo has dark moments in his history is a good way of bringing perspective to others’ past indiscretions. Some mistakes are easily forgivable. Others require more active “mea culpa.” And it’s important to recognize the difference.
So maybe this wasn’t the most important story to start the year. But it’s good to know that Sesame Street is still capable of teaching the adults in the room a lesson too.