Tuesday, October 30, 2012

An Ode to Sesame Street

Awhile back on io9's observationdeck forum, someone asked us to list the television shows that got us hooked on genre works. I enjoyed Star Trek: The Next Generation during its original run (I'm way old). I loved the hell out of the Thundercats cartoon. X-Men was the show I rushed home to watch after school.

Those were all pretty great, but the show that got me hooked on genre work was Sesame Street. It's the first and best urban fantasy.

On Sesame Street, there's a giant bird who talks. He's par for the course and by no means the strangest creature there. There are monsters everywhere. They live in trash cans, moonlight as superheroes, and compulsively consume cookies. The humans who live there don't bat an eye at this stuff; in fact, it is their normal. Mr. Hooper, Luis, Gordon - they treated little kids and monsters precisely the same. They were all people. Some just happened to have fur.

All these heroes' journeys our UF heroines take to learn to understand that the monsters are Just People, Too? Those girls ain't got nothing on Maria. So, you can stake a vampire, Anita Blake? Big deal. I defy you to sit down and sing a song with a red-furred baby monster and tickle it to hear it squeak.

My favorite character was Mr. Snuffleupagus. Even as a little kid I could understand the silliness of the situation where a street filled with imaginary creatures simply couldn't believe a six feet tall talking bird's imaginary friend could be real. It was a gentle push toward keeping an open mind despite what you are certain the truth must be. I felt incredibly vindicated when Snuffy was outed as the real deal. (Take that, bitches!)

When people talk about what a tragedy it would be for politicians to cut Sesame Street, I agree but not for the same reasons everyone else does.  It's not just the counting and reading and reason and logic little kids would miss out on (although that's important and I believe it gave me a big push toward the problem-solving skills I employ in my job every day). That's good stuff. But more importantly, Sesame Street fed my creativity in a way that school never did. After watching this show, how could you not believe in fantastical stuff? I knew there were monsters and vampires and imaginary friends who were totally real even if people doubted or couldn't see them. My imagination was always on overdrive and the possibilities of every idea seemed endless. That has never changed. I can't imagine it ever will.

My imagination soars because Sesame Street showed me how to let it free to fly. Because of Sesame Street, I dream bigger and better than I otherwise might. I want that for my kids and for your kids and for every kid. Cutting funding to that isn't just tragic, it's downright criminal.
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