November 1, 2013
Are Sesame Street Parodies Going Too Far?
For a matter of full disclosure, I don’t have children, and so my knowledge of what kids today watch is fairly limited. However, I’ve heard quite a bit about the “edgy” parodies that Sesame Street has created in recent years. While these are actually amusing, the question is whether some of these go too far, at least in what they are mocking.
Is it really appropriate in a children’s program, especially one for younger kids, to use very adult programs as inspiration?
Parodies have included Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, Sons of Anarchy, Gray’s Anatomy, The Closer and most recently Homeland, all complete with a rather twisted take on the show’s openings. These spoofs, especially the latter two, seem really edgy for a children’s show.
Maybe I’m being a prude of sorts, but I’m actually watching these through the eyes of someone who isn’t a parent. Maybe for parents it is refreshing to see something that is as entertaining to adults and I’m sure if I had to sit through this TV show day after day I might agree.
But, perhaps that’s my problem. These skits seem actually to be aimed more at adults than children, and were these not on Sesame Street, I’d think this could be something created specifically for an older audience. Some of the jokes seem as if they’d go over children’s heads – but what’s worse is that both Birdwalk Empire and Homelamb seem to cross the line a bit with some stereotypes. For one, Saul the lamb in Homelamb is far more of a Jewish stereotype than Saul is on the show. For reasons that seem beyond me, the writers played up his accent and speech patterns; and while I’m not one to be easily offended, it didn’t seem entirely appropriate.
The Birdwalk Empire skit calls upon the show’s rogue gallery of gangsters (many based on real criminals) and I just think it odd that the likes of Charlie Luciano and Al Capone (as “Clucky Luciano” and “Mallard Capone” respectively) should get such an honor. These were men that destroyed lives, and profited from prostitution, bootlegging and heroin! It is a spoof, but is there a line that shouldn’t be crossed?
In fairness, the skits do attempt to teach, as clearly is the point in the Sons of Poetry spoof, where the motorcycle gang shows up to teach the importance of rhyming in poetry. Again, it is really amusing to see Sons of Anarchy as puppets, but part of me couldn’t help but think “this is so wrong.” In the case of this one (spoiler warning!) the bad boy biker who knows a thing or two about meter and rhyming gets the girl, and the smart looking guy is left uttering the words, “but I love you.”
And that’s where maybe I start to have a problem. These do try to stay true to the shows, but none of these shows are really appropriate for children.
Would it be so wrong for more parodies along the line of Preschool Musical, where the shows spoofed might actually be intended for children? Again, maybe I’m being something of a prude, but there is another part to this as well.
I’m not a fan of PBS in the least, so I find it distasteful that the creators of Sesame Street need to turn to commercial TV for inspiration. Time and time again we hear about the “quality” of PBS programming during the annual pledge drives. Yet the writers apparently must spend a whole lot of time watching commercial and paid TV and this point is apparently lost on many.
Truth be told, I actually have less of a problem with the musical parodies, which Sesame Street has done for years. These can entertain while educating. So, I found it cute that Katy Perry and others would actually take the time to perform on the show. Ironically, it was Perry’s performance (and likely her low cut dress) that did have some parents outraged.
It just seems odd that the Perry performance would be something to get worked up about, but the stereotypes of Homelamb and the use of gangsters in Birdwalk Empires is considered fair entertainment – especially for children.