My daughter Soleil loves Elmo madly. As much as the little red monster can annoy, I wanted to support my little girl in her crush. So I intentionally identified in with the online Sesame Street videos. While there is a golden nugget in every episode for kids, I saw a pattern of lessons about adult peer-to-peer relationships.
Please excuse my goofy cheesy Da-Da post (as Soleil calls me), but here are four things I learned from Elmo:
Shine the Light on Others
We know Elmo is the man. As much as everyone loves him, Elmo clearly likes other people. He always shines his spotlight on other people, and is genially excited to play with them on their terms. Whether it’s a celebrity like the above Elvis Costello video (my fav Elmo short!) or another monster, Elmo enthusiastically enjoys others.
This excitement for others is contagious. Who doesn’t want to be seen with Elmo?
Not Everyone Can Be Like Elmo
Perhaps my original disdain for Elmo was in the fact that he’s so popular (always a spot of contention for me). One thing that Sesame Street makes clear is that other characters are loveable, too. They are flawed, perhaps not as exciting to the audience, but the camera (and hopefully the kids watching) still loves them.
In this Diana Krall video, Grover shows up late to the ensemble production of “Everybody’s Song.” Notice how Krall smiles when Grover shows up in his typical self-centered way.
This theme occurs throughout Elmo and Sesame Street videos, and it’s an important one. Not everyone feels or acts in a constantly vivacious manner. Everyone may want to be as well liked as Elmo, but really they are who they are, which of course makes them not Elmo. They can be hungry like Cookie or whip smart like Abbey or grouchy like Oscar. Peers – on or offline – should be appreciated for who they are, which is different than seeing them as flawed for not reaching the zenith of popularity or lacking intellectually.
Tackle Tough Issues
Having a parent abroad on military service has to be hard for kids. Imagine not being able to see your Mom or Dad because they are gone for months on end. Elmo’s Dad is in the service, and talks about the tough issues of separation with Elmo. In the above video, the monsters talk about feelings for a deceased uncle.
This is a tough issue. Certainly, parents who travel a lot for business (and I do) can understand what a strain this military service would be. Further, another series of videos tackle post service injury issues. I like these Sesame Street videos featuring Elmo as one of the affected kids. It shows that tackling tough issues in honest conversation with peers helps us get through them together.
Be Gracious in the Face of Controversy
The banned Katy Perry rendition of “Hot N Cold” ranks as one of my other favorite Elmo videos. When originally aired on Sesame Street, parents complained that Perry’s outfit was too busty and inappropriate (I’ve seen other celebrity Sesame Street videos that seemed more offensive). Sesame Street pulled the piece and gave the short film to Perry.
The video was then released on YouTube, and viewed more than 38 million times. In the subsequent fallout, Elmo and a Sesame Street producer did an interview on The Early Show. Any time Katy Perry comes up during the interview Elmo states how much he likes and respects her. Elmo remained gracious in the face of controversy and his company’s banning Perry’s video. It made you like him in spite of the silliness of the whole affair.
OK, your turn!