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Political correctness gone mad: "Cookies are a sometimes food."

Yes it is, Cookie Monster. Yes it is.

By MARY WARD

Cookie Monster has been a much-loved character of children’s television for over fifty years.

He appeared in Sesame Street’s first episode, back in 1969, where his love of cookies – frequently oatmeal, but occasionally choc-chip – became an integral part of the show.

Then – around the mid-2000s – Cookie Monster started to change.

His catchphrase shifted from: “Cookies! Om nom nom nom nom.” To: “Cookies are a sometimes food.”

Which was fine. Because cookies are a sometimes food (for humans – the jury’s still out on the nutritional needs of muppets.) And, although he was being a little more responsible about it, Cookie Monster still got to eat his cookies and create the crumbly mess and experience the thrill that can only come from throwing cookies into your muppet mouth with such gay abandon.

But now, Sesame Street have taken the whole ‘muppets as responsible role models’ thing a little too far and done this:

I have three responses:

1) Cookie Monster already has a song.

It’s called ‘C is for Cookie.’ And it’s good enough for me.

‘C is for Cookie’ is a great song. It teaches kids the third letter of the alphabet. And what letter to look out for when purchasing cookies at the supermarket.

Both of which are important and appropriate learning goals for a preschoolers’ television program to promote.

2) A cover of Icona Pop’s ‘I Love It’ is a bit of a low brow choice for Sesame Street.

Sesame Street has clearly strayed from its inner city, wanky PBS roots.

Anyone else remember when they covered La Habanera from Carmen? If you don’t, here is where you can find it. (Alas, the only evidence of it I could find of it on Youtube has been dubbed in Spanish.)

But, most importantly:

3) ARE THEY ACTUALLY SERIOUS?!

Apparently one doesn’t eat any!

This is a Sesame Street song about delayed gratification from admittedly not particularly healthy food choices.

This is political-correctness gone mad.

While the “sometimes food” line at least acknowledged that kids could eat yummy cookies in moderation, this new approach appears to be based on the denial of cookies, which seems pretty dire.

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Now, I’m not going to pretend that Sesame Street doesn’t prioritise exploring facets of behaviour in a way that is easy for kids to understand. But even if we say that this outlook extends to providing nutrition advice, this song is seriously underestimating their audience.

Which is saying something. Because half of their audience isn’t even toilet trained.

I was watching Sesame Street during the mid- to late-1990s. Back then, Cookie Monster was still shovelling ALL of the cookies into his mouth. But, you know what? Even though I knew that cookies were delicious, and saw the level of utility that Cookie Monster derived from them, I never thought to do the same.

Because Cookie Monster wasn’t a role model. He was a greedy guts. His love of cookies often lost him friends. In fact, whole plotlines of the show involved the ever-wise Gina acting as an arbitrator in messy disputes between Cookie Monster and the other muppets over the subject of Cookie Monster’s cookies.

Cookie Monster was a greedy guts. And that was okay.

Sometimes he wouldn’t share them. Other times he made a mess. On separate occasions he refused to play with the other muppets because he kept on getting distracted by the cookies.

Cookie Monster is obviously a flawed character. He’s Byronic. The brooding Mr Rochester of Sesame Street.

And, while his flaws are used to explore certain issues in human relationships, that doesn’t mean that kids are going to want to emulate them.

What’s next? A song from Oscar the Grouch telling them that living inside a trash can isn’t a valid life choice?

We need to have a little more faith in kids – and their parents, and teachers, and carers, and neighbours, and grandparents, and siblings, and other older role models, who presumably have some degree of control over their life choices given that the target audience of this show is, you know, three –  to make smart decisions.

Not every single thing that children are exposed to on TV needs to be providing them with a life roadmap. Sometimes kids can just watch TV, and that is the end of it.

And, in the case of a greedy muppet recklessly eating cardboard discs, that’s probably for the best.

Now, I’m off to eat some cookies.

Do you think that TV has a responsibility to teach kids how to make healthy choices?

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