Photo from AP/San Jose Mercury News
Apparently, the top is actually flesh-colored material like the costumes that ice skaters wear. But after watching the video, it looks like boobs to me. I didn't see a full-length picture of the dress, but based on the clips shown in the video, there doesn't look like a whole lot of material there.
The video was first shown on YouTube before making it to the network, and I'm wondering if the producers of Sesame Street did this in order to gauge parents' reactions - because they knew they were crossing a fine line.
Ironically we were just talking about this at the lunch table yesterday - the somewhat questionable stars Sesame Street hosts lately (?) have me scratching my head, wondering if it's really something I want my child watching. One mom commented on a Sex and the City character making an appearance and talking about "Mr. Big," (which went over my head since I don't watch the show) and explained that it referred to Big Bird, (of course!) but was a double entendre from the S&C series. Yeah. Okay. That's the part that sort of irks me. That some of the humor is off-color for children and is understood in more of an adult context. I've never understood how some elements of the script are equally geared towards parents or adults. I think their original expectation is that the adults will be watching with their children, which is probably the last thing that happens, especially these days.
One episode featured "The Shoe Fairy Person," played by Neil Patrick Harris (who just happens to be gay). "The Shoe Fairy?" Really? In 2009, Vanessa Williams appeared - you know, the former Miss America who lost her crown because of her raunchy appearance in Penthouse magazine. Former Playmate of the Year Jenny McCarthy (who still worked for the magazine both modeling and in 'other capacities' up until fairly recently) has been on the show several times. (This one really puzzled me, considering that McCarthy is known for her often crude, over-the-top sense of humor. How does she explain that to her son, I wonder?)
The article does goes on to say, in reference to the risque costume, "That's right. We don't want a sudden flood of toddlers busting their piggy banks trying to get breast implants." This comment almost implies that parents are wrong for complaining and should just lighten up already.
Maybe they won't ask for a boob job for Christmas just yet. But I've already seen countless little kids faithfully wearing their Justin Beiber t-shirts, Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana get ups and all kinds of other age-inappropriate attire. Halloween is just around the corner - I can't wait to see what kids come out wearing then. High heels for girls, anyone? And just the other day in the store, I heard a gaggle of young kids actually singing Christina Aguilera's "Candyman." (Not sure if they got to the part about vodka and dropping underwear yet.)
People probably think children are too young to get the Katy Perry boob references or understand the lyrics to Aguilera's song, but I beg to differ. A recent study concluded that children are "surprisingly perceptive." No, really?
Even if they don't understand the sexual overtones or get the connection between the real lyrics of Perry's song versus the cleaned up for tv version, I don't think it matters much: I still wouldn't want my child singing them. At least not at that age.
I look back at some of the sexual references or innuendo that I do remember as a kid, whether from adults having conversations that they thought were over my head or from tv. That stuff still sticks with me. It left an impression, whether good or bad, for a reason. In a lot of ways I think my mom raised me as a product of her own parents' naivete, and her innocence reflected how out of touch she probably was on such issues.
I think I am way more guarded as a parent than my mom was. Partly because I remember those influences while growing up, and partly because, generationally, things are so much different than when I was a kid. Things were probably beginning to change culturally between the time my mom grew up and when she raised me. Each generation has gotten progressively "worse," with more modern conveniences that either take the place of a parent being more present in the supervisory role or introduce questionable influences into their lives.
I think back to my Sesame Street days and don't remember anything too overt about some of the guests. Maybe on the Muppet Show, Charo sang and shook her whatever around in 1978 (but then again, I always thought she was kind of whacked, even when I was a kid.)
Being a kid in 1980 was a different time. Things like Adam Walsh's abduction and murder sort of peripherally lingered in the background, and the stories of several high-profile child kidnapings and subsequent murders (like that of Cleveland-area tween Amy Mihaljevic ) were only just starting to take a front seat and make parents wake up. Maybe I was more sheltered, but those were the days of no cable and certainly no internet. No texting, or anything remotely related to a computer would even enter our house for probably six years yet. Now every kid has a cell phone, is texting (or even "sexting") and some young girls have even been chatting with adult men online and meeting them for sex, sometimes ending up with disastrous consequences .
I'm sure some parents have used tv as a babysitter from its very inception - that much has and never will change. Sometimes, I'm even guilty of that. But it's the stuff they're watching that is crucial. It seems like Sesame Street's original purpose has eclipsed itself, maybe, and now they are introducing cultural references to children who are probably really too young for it. The major problem, though, is that the references to these entertainers is no longer benign, because kids are seeing these people perform in their "adult mode" too. Whatever the reason - an older sibling, a babysitter, maybe even a parent who lets them watch, thinking it's harmless. As a parent, I find nothing cute or funny about seeing a preschooler "attracted" to Justin Beiber (or anyone outside the scope of, say, The Wiggles maybe) and think encouraging this type of behavior possibly just leads to more precocious behavior at a younger age. I don't know why people are surprised that more teens are having sex and getting pregnant, really.
Perhaps it wouldn't be a bad idea if Sesame Street would consider only hosting guests who are role models for children both on Sesame Street and in their "real" roles. If they can find any.