Re: Big Bird and Michelle Obama Team Up

Nat — Cookie Monster’s relationship to the cookie has been a particular concern of mine for quite a while. From a column I wrote in 2005:

The producers of Sesame Street have decided that Cookie Monster is gay.

Hold the phone. I’m kidding. But try to hold onto your reaction for a moment because what they’ve really done to Cookie Monster is worse, they’ve taken away his reason for being.

Since my copy of Meditations by Marcus Aurelius is in storage, let me explain by paraphrasing Hannibal Lecter’s famous dialogue with Clarice Starling in Silence of the Lambs. Imagine Lecter isn’t a superhuman cannibalistic serial killer and that, instead of being a doe-eyed feminist naif in the FBI, Ms. Starling is a doe-eyed feminist naif at the Children’s Television Workshop.

Lecter: “First principles, Clarice. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing, ask: What is it in itself? What is its nature? What does he do, this creature you seek?

Starling: He entertains children….

Lecter: “No! That is incidental. What is the first and principal thing he does? What need does he serve by entertaining children?

Starling: Social acceptance? Personal frustration?

Lecter: No: He craves. That’s his nature. And what does he crave? Make an effort to answer.

Starling: Food?

Lecter: No! He is not a “food monster!” He is a cookie monster!

But not according to the well-meaning social engineers of PBS. After three decades, they’ve announced he’s not a Cookie Monster at all. In the interests of teaching kids not to be gluttons, CTW has transformed Cookie Monster into just another monster who happens to like cookies. His trademark song, “C is for Cookie” has been changed to “A Cookie Is a Sometimes Food.” And this is a complete and total reversal of Cookie Monster’s ontology, his telos, his raison d’etre, his essential Cookie-Monster-ness.

If the Cookie Monster is no longer a cookie monster, what is he? Why didn’t they just name him “Phil: The Monster Who Sometimes Likes to Eat a Cookie”? 

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