Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Separating Elmo from Kevin Clash

I read this post by Erika Christakis about how adults read too much into Sesame Street.

I agree about her premise.  People worry too much about messages kids couldn't get even if they tried.  Adults can have a little chuckle on the wayside with a nudge-nudge, wink-wink but kids are happy to watch the guy trip over something and drop his tray of pies.  I watched Shrek with my boys and I will guarantee that they saw a very different movie than the one I did.

But there is one area where I think she missed her own point.  She complains about how Elmo is being tarred by Kevin Clash's alleged misdeeds.  (I say alleged even though his accusers have recanted.  The accusation is enough to cause problems on its own without going into whether its true or false.)

Sesame Street made a cautious decision to remove a potential threat from a potential victim pool.  It's not about whether or not Elmo is lovable or effective, it's about the possibility that Clash might be able to use his position as an access tool to vulnerable minors.  (For the record, I'm doubtful that it happened but I can certainly understand taking precautions.)

Elmo is not going to be retired, any more than Ernie was after Jim Henson died, or Grover was now that Frank Oz doesn't regularly participate.  It's the beauty of voice muppeteering, a talented mimic can roll with what has been created.

Elmo should be kept entirely separate from what's going on with Kevin Clash.  And if he has done nothing illegal and inappropriate, then his suspension/retirement is wrong and he should have the opportunity to reverse it.  However, once the accusation is made, it must be investigated and precautions should be taken.  That's just common sense.

It would be a real shame if we lost that charming little furry fellow with the ear-splitting laugh because of some medieval fear of tainted association.  Elmo is guiltless and we should take advantage of the fact that we can be cautious and have our Elmo, too.

Although I may have a different opinion after watching three straight hours of Elmo's World.

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