Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Happy Birthday Mr. Snuffleupagus

The older I get, the more I realize I'm turning into my mother, a woman who has been known throughout my life to launch into a full waterworks display faster than you can say emotionally manipulative Internet chain letter. Case in point, the drive to Midlothian yesterday. I was listening to NPR and Renee Montagne mentioned that it was the fortieth birthday of the seminal children's show Sesame Street, and I got a little emotional.

I got to thinking what a groundbreaking show it was and how, for generations of poor rural kids in pre-Internet days, it was our first exposure to multiculturalism. I thought about how brave the producers had been to push the envelope and insist on a representative cast and crew. I thought about how the program had shown kids like me regular Hispanic and African-American people interacting in perfectly normal ways with those around them at a time when television characters were overwhelmingly WASP. In fact, the show was banned for a brief time in Mississippi because the state thought its audiences weren't ready for the integrated crew and the presence of so many strong, single women.

The show has addressed ethics; emotions; and real-life situations of love, marriage, birth and death. It discussed the 9/11 attacks and featured an HIV-positive character. It found a way to talk about child abuse and disabilities. It adapted and stayed relevant even with the technology boom of the 1990's. Oscar the Grouch may have gotten a cell phone, but he keeps on teaching millions of kids not only ABCs and spelling and basic math, but how to grow up to be better adults. So happy birthday, Mr. Snuffleupagus, and many more returns.

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