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TV Critics Cheer Sex on Sesame
Sesame Workshop creators of the decades-long, award-winning educational
children's series Sesame Street announced that it would not air on its
broadcast program a guest appearance by pop singer Katy Perry. The appearance,
in which Perry sang a version of her song "Hot and Cold" while chasing the
Muppet character Elmo, had been released to YouTube.
The video caused many
parents to voice concern over Perry's cleavage-baring, short-skirted outfit, and
repeated scenes of Elmo running around the hem of Perry's miniskirt, with a
focus on her legs. Among the reactions reported by media news website
TMZ were, "Talk about inappropriate costume choice
for a kids' show. ... Kids aren't dumb. They may be small and their vocabularies
are still growing, but they have HUGE eyes. They love to emulate their TV
idols," "They're gonna have to rename [Sesame Street] 'Cleavage
Avenue'," and "Good move, Sesame Street.
Can't we keep our kids from being sexualized at least until they are out of
Nicole Clark whose documentary
Cover Girl Culture discusses the ways entertainment and the fashion
industry sexualize young girls said of the scene, "This presentation, this way
of dressing, this way of being all of it says to a little girl, 'this is a
good way to be.' This appearance on Sesame Street validates this kind of
Sesame Workshop addressed
parental concerns by stating, "In light of the feedback we've received on the
Katy Perry music video, which was released on YouTube only, we have decided we
will not air the segment on the television broadcast of Sesame Street,
which is aimed at preschoolers. Katy Perry fans will still be able to view the
video on YouTube."
The PTC responded by applauding Sesame Workshop's responsible decision.
But the critics didn't.
This column has
discussed the attitudes which seem prevalent among professional television
critics. Today, much of being a television critic
consists of cheering for anything, no matter how inappropriate for children and
unpopular with the mass audience, that the entertainment industry is eager to
promote. Often it appears that the more offensive a program is, the better the
critics like it. The critics themselves prefer to believe that they are more
intelligent, more perceptive, and more enlightened and sophisticated than the
In fact, many of these
critics are hopelessly out of touch with the tastes and desires of the readers
for whom they are supposedly writing; and no greater demonstration of this fact
can be seen that the critical reaction to the Sesame Street/Katy Perry
After smirking in a headline
that "nobody mentions Elmo is naked," Roger Catlin of the
Hartford Courant defended Perry's choice of costume, noting that "she's
worn sexier outfits," as when she hosted the Teen Choice Awards on Fox.
Catlin concludes his column by asserting that "little kids certainly must be
familiar with the shape of human female breasts."
E! Online referred to those who objected as "boob-hating parents." And
Lisa de Moraes after sneering that the video had
been "expunged from the official YouTube Sesame Street page, which had
been washed down with lye," went on to claim that Perry's dress in the Sesame
Street video is not low-cut, and to compare it with one worn by Bristol
Palin on the season premiere of Dancing With the Stars.
Such objections are
nonsensical that is, those which are not purely insulting. Of course, critics
pride themselves on their "snarky," sarcastic writing, so it comes as no
surprise that they utilized the style here; but when allegedly clever writing is
more in evidence than common sense, perhaps the critics need to think more
clearly and carefully about what they are saying.
At risk of being pedantic,
this column will undertake to explain to the critics what is wrong with each of
"Elmo" is a puppet, not a
real human individual. It has no features which could be considered prurient;
and therefore, stating that "Elmo is naked" is nothing more than a smart-aleck
remark...and not a very clever one.
Saying that children "must
be familiar with the shape of human female breasts," or calling parents
"boob-hating," constitutes no argument. Children are aware that they possess
genitalia. Should full-frontal nudity also be featured on children's
programming? And a parent need not "hate" breasts (or genitals) to object to
such intimate body parts being displayed on a children's program on a
taxpayer-supported network via the publicly-owned airwaves.
Statements that dresses on
Dancing With the Stars are more revealing than Perry's on the Sesame
Street video, or that Perry herself wore sexier outfits on the Teen
Choice Awards, contain a flaw so blindingly obvious that their inclusion can
only be chalked up to sheer disingenuousness on the part of critics:
Choice Awards are aimed at just that teens. Dancing With the Stars,
though some children may watch, is aimed at adults. But Sesame Street's
entire target audience is children ages 2-5. As any parent who has ever resisted
calls for specific toys or foods after their children have seen a commercial
will know, very young children are extremely susceptible to being influenced by
what they see on TV. Further, children so young do not have the discernment to
be able to evaluate what they are seeing.
Many of these
same critics would no doubt object to women being treated as mere sexual
objects, or to an untoward emphasis being placed upon women's bodies, in
prime-time programming and rightfully so. Yet when such a portrayal is
included on a program which is specifically intended for toddlers, they see no
In the past,
individuals famous for more "adult" aspects of their appearance or speech also
appeared on children's programs; but in doing so, they respected the best
interests of their child viewers and the desires of parents by tailoring their
presentation to make it age-appropriate. George Carlin served as narrator
for the American version of the
children's show Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends, and played the
Conductor on the PBS children's show Shining Time Station, and did
creditably in both roles; but apparently, today's professional TV critics
believe he should have used
the "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television" in front of his young viewers
while doing so.
Today's alleged "critics"
are more interested in pandering to the entertainment industry's worst impulses
than they are in exercising any critical faculties and actually considering the
effect that programming has on its viewers. Their knee-jerk defense of the
sexualization of children reveals such "critics" as the mental lemmings they are
willing, unquestioning, sheep-like tools of the entertainment industry, always
in lockstep with the herd mentality of the so-called "critical" establishment.
This column was compiled from reports by the Parents
Television Councils Analysis staff.