S is for Scandal! Sesame Street has been a mainstay of children’s programming for 50 years, but that has not made the show immune from controversy.
Here’s a look at controversies that have rocked the show:
Old Episodes Are for ‘Adults Only’
When Sesame Street released Sesame Street: Old School, it came with a warning, “These early ‘Sesame Street’ episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of today’s preschool child.”
The New York Times asked Carol-Lynn Parente, the show’s executive producer, about what made the show unsuitable for children. She brought up Cookie Monster’s turn as Alistair Cookie in the parody “Monsterpiece Theater” which saw him with a pipe he eventually gobbled. “That modeled the wrong behavior so we reshot those scenes without the pipe, and then we dropped the parody altogether.”
The outlet also mentions Oscar the Grouch was “seems irredeemably miserable” in the premiere and Big Bird creepily proclaimed he was not hallucinating when he was the only one who could see Mr. Snuffleupagus.
According to Insider, the episodes also featured children who “played in construction sites and jumped on old box springs.
A Black Muppet Was Deemed a ‘Harmful Stereotype’
Franklin Roosevelt was Sesame Street’s first Black Muppet. Yet, he was viewed as a “harmful stereotype” according to Insider. The Hollywood Reporter wrote about the character, writing complaints came in that “the rowdy little guy was a poor role model for young black males; others thought he wasn’t authentically black.”
In 1975, he was taken off-air.
Mr. Snuffleupagus Was Made Real Over Worries of Silencing Sexual Assault Survivors
Mr. Snuffleupagus was just Big Bird’s imaginary friend when he premiered on Sesame Street in 1971. The yellow icon of the franchise often proclaimed he was not hallucinating, but noone believed him.
After concerns about what message that could send to children, the character now affectionately known as Snuffy became visible to all.
“All this was really stemming from a specific set of incidences in the news, claims of sexual abuse going on in some daycare centers, and kids being questioned about what was going on,” Parente told Mental Floss about the motivation behind his reveal. “The fear was that if we represented adults not believing what kids said, they might not be motivated to tell the truth. That caused us to rethink the storyline: Is something we’ve been doing for 14 years—that seemed innocent enough—now something that’s become harmful?”
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