March 16, 1997
I Hate Elmo
I had the shocking revelation the other day that finally, the impossible had happened. I hated a Muppet.
Yes, me, TV Boy, who spent the better part of my developmental years soaking in Sesame Street, and later, The Muppet Show Ė It turns out, I hate a Muppet.
Not just any Muppet, mind you. But the most popular of all new Muppets.
I hate Elmo.
Maybe you remember him from the "Tickle-Me Elmo" riots of 1996. (By the way, "Tickle me Elmo?" is still considered a pretty snappy pick-up line in parts of London.) Someone at work brought in an Elmo doll, so we could see what all the fuss was about. I thought the doll was annoying. I'd never seen the character on which it was based. So maybe I was missing out on some aspect of the characterís charm.
I wasnít. Iíve now seen Elmo. Heís just as annoying as the doll. More so, if thatís possible. And I hate him.
This, mind you, is a tall order. I mean, I really thought the doll was a complete waste of time. Then I saw Elmo in action with the Frugal Gourmet in a Sesame Street segment the other day. (Another side note: Watch yourself, Elmo. I believe civil charges are still pending against Jeff Smith, the Frugal Gourmet. Several boys are charging he tickled their Elmos, without their permission.) Man, was Elmo annoying! Elmo is supposed to be a "younger" Muppet, and childish he was. Whiny and petulant, demanding and clumsy, speaking a form of "Kid Speak" thatís a lot like English, but with all those beginner's mistakes Ė all of those things about a really young kid that are cute for about two minutes, then get kind of annoying.
Now, not to toot my own horn (and you back off, Frugal Gourmet), but my main Muppet when I was a kid was Kermit the Frog. Kermit was hip, Kermit was cool, Kermit was mature, and Kermit never talked down to me. He just talked. I assumed that was the way to go. I wanted to be Kermit. Hell, I would have settled for being any Muppet. Back in my day, the Muppets were always played at a bit of a more mature level. Sure, they were designed to be entertaining to young kids, and maybe they were a bit over our heads, but we were fascinated with their wit and sophistication. Thatís what encouraged me to learn and read and grow.
Hereís another aspect that I think has been overlooked in the current Elmo-mania. Elmo is a punky little bratty kid, fine. Sure, heís cute and all, but the act gets old really fast. How long can that act last? Look at the "classic" Muppets instead. Bert and Ernie were adults. Big Bird was a grown-up. They've withstood the test of time. I still enjoy watching their segments today.
But better than that, they were my friends! Here were real role models for me. I wanted to talk to them on their level. Heaven help the kids who latch on to Elmo, and stay on his very childish level. Whereís the inspiration to learn and grow?
I understand the tendency is to love Elmo, because he is so young and, well, lovable. But unless Elmo matures, in a hurry, I think heíll be doing more harm than good. Letís give todayís kids the same credit I got: Donít talk down to them, or give them characters who communicate at or below their level. A little inspiration to learn never hurt anyone (well, mostly never), and can do a world of good.
I mean, look how I turned out!