Thursday, September 3, 2015

Classic Sesame Street

I was born in the summer of 1980. To me Sesame Street has always existed, for I never knew life without it.  At that moment in time all four Beatles were still alive. Reagan was in office, making racist remarks about African Americans to increase his vote.

 Long before the internet, people were excited about music television and being able to watch, rewind and fast forward movies from their homes with VCRs. Access to knowledge was limited to your library and catalogs. Your memory held about a dozen phone numbers by heart, which you had at one point dialed in a phone booth. The world was a different place, not in a change in behavior, but man state of ignorance has long been shattered with the interconnection of the world wide web. Something the younger generations will take for granted, much like our generation did for television and with the generation before that it was radio and so on....

Eleven years before then, in 1969 Sesame Street starring Jim Hensons Muppets, aired its first episode on the Children Television Workshop. Its main objection was to educate inner city children, who often couldn't attend preschool,  basic learning skills for entering elementary school. The alphabet, counting, colors, shapes, early science and social studies were made available to children with access to public broadcasting. Not only was this educational, but fully entertaining. Sesame Street made learning fun, with lovable characters like Big Bird and Groover, who had a child like demeanour that both entertained and related to common stresses a small child would understand, but an adult would not. They had fun parental figures like Gordon and Susan, who gave direction and security to all children and Muppets alike.  Education was drilled into us with song and dance. 

In just four short year's, the show will be celebrating fifty years on the aire. To just think, those children who first appeared on the show are not only already grown, but likely grandparents or entering that time period in their life. Imagine how old the adults are now. Loretta Long (Susan,) Bob McGrath and Caroll Spinney (Big Bird) are three of the remaining performers of the original show. I remember when Maria ( Sonia Manzano) had an African American boyfriend named David (Northern Calloway) and I was confused to why she was suddenly marrying Luis. It was the first time I ever saw an interracial relationship and I believed this short term relationship affected my generation enough to help change society

Classic Sesame Street is considered outdated, for example they teach children how to use a pay phone. It's also considered controversial, using the word Ash can as an example for the letter A. During the story line, Gordon is walking with a young girl who was new to the neighborhood. He openly talked about bringing her to his apartment, where his wife Susan served milk and homemade cookies. Back then this was completely innocent. This was the actions of good neighbors. Now a days, people are extremely cautious. No one wants to be accused of anything, communities began neglecting their children.  It's not something I would advise allowing your child to watch unattended, due to social and technical differences. When watching the first episode with my daughter, I explained that this behavior has changed. No longer could you trust a stranger who is so friendly. Yet I feel tomorrows generation could stand to learn from an obvious mistake we are currently making. It is not we should fear, our neighbors, but know them. Nothing is full proof and even a family relative could be that monster you fear. I say, let us bring back the idea of community and the people in our neighborhood.

Throughout the year's many talented, inspirational, influential and even historical people have either appeared or worked on the show. Sesame Street often brought out a more gentler side in an individual. Many great people who have since died have their way into this show. Historical Sesame when watched in order will show you our evolution in society. 

Another often frowned upon aspect of the show was the encouragement of imagination, including imagery friends.  I support imagery car rides, pretend cake at tea parties, finding images in clouds and day dreaming.
I believe in children playing outside, singing songs and looking at world through lenses of the future, not present. I support encouraging children to improve upon things, not keep things as they are. Maria and David's relationship had to end, when Sonia became pregnant in real life. David being her boyfriend was pretty controversial during that time, but no one wanted it to go further. So they broke up David and Maria, hooked Maria up with Luis, then they had a short engagement, marriage and then the Maria is pregnant story line came, with the birth of her daughter later on. The show has long since evolved, but let us not forget this lesson. 

Gina in the role of the Maiden.
Gina with her adopted son Marco, now she is the Mother!

The show also first at the time to have a single mother character, now Gina a character who came in to replace the maiden down the street (character Maria once was, who then was the Mother and has since retired a Crone,) became a single mother, though adoption and is still at the Mother figure today. 

Maiden, Mother, Crone

To avoid repeating the past, one should know about it. However, take a tip from Sesame Street and find a more interesting way to learn your history. Watching the Sesame Street from your childhood will help you relate better to your parents generation and go back further if you can, and further generations. Also I love Sonias imitation of Charlie Chaplin and how Forgetful Jones always forgets the next line. It's those little moments that are special so, scattered throughout the show. We all who watched the show had them. I ask you, what were your?

Old school Sesame Street is also a great way to introduce your children to the music you grew up with. 

Giving you a trip down memory lane, while giving your children a history lesson, yes history! One of the greatest aspects of watching these old episodes, is it makes the older generations more approachable. Something about watching your parents generation play as you did, in such an intimate a setting Sesame Street provides breaks a barrier between generations, which I hope out last my lifetime. Our children have parents who grew up and loved many of the same characters they loved.  Though the show will have to change, people retire, die, technology and social structure change, the goal to make education available and fun has been the greatest gift Sesame Street has provided. 

I hope one Saturday morning you wake up early with your little ones, pull out the bowls, milk and cereal. Break the rules and have a feast in your living room together. Put on some old school cartoons and shows and don't forget your Classic Sesame Street. Tell your kids stories, fill them in on the outdated stuff, point out the old technology, hair styles, clothing, cars, etc... Remind your children that you were once like them, don't be afraid of that common bond.

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