We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

“Unlike Mitt, I loathe Sesame Street. It bears primary responsibility for what the Canadian blogger Binky calls the de-monsterization of childhood – the idea that there are no evil monsters out there at the edges of the map, just shaggy creatures who look a little funny and can sometimes be a bit grouchy about it because people prejudge them until they learn to celebrate diversity and help Cranky the Friendly Monster go recycling. That is not unrelated to the infantilization of our society. Marinate three generations of Americans in that pabulum, and it’s no surprise you wind up with unprotected diplomats dragged to their deaths from their “safe house” in Benghazi. Or as J. Scott Gration, the president’s Special Envoy to Sudan, said in 2009, in the most explicit Sesamization of American foreign policy: “We’ve got to think about giving out cookies. Kids, countries – they react to gold stars, smiley faces, handshakes.” The butchers of Darfur aren’t blood-drenched machete-wielding genocidal killers but just Cookie Monsters whom we haven’t given enough cookies. I’m not saying there’s a direct line between Bert & Ernie and Barack & Hillary … well, actually, I am.”

Mark Steyn

Funny how these trends in kid-friendly TV animals go. Back when I was a nipper, we had Basil Brush, Top Cat, the cast of the Magic Roundabout, the Muppets, and the timeless Tom and Jerry cartoons. A later generation had Roland Rat.

Aficionados like to point out that Basil Brush was modelled on the late, great Terry Thomas. Definitely a Tory.

16 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Alisa

    Wow. I love Sesame and Muppets, but it seems he does have a point…

    I loved Snowhite and the Huntsman precisely because it went back to Bros. Grimm, well, rather grim original.

  • Alisa

    Smited. Why oh why?

  • RAB

    Kids love gore and being frightened. We do them no favours Bowdlerising Fairy Tales, they were written as morality guides.

    In the original story of Sleeping Beauty she is raped in her sleep by the handsome prince and gives birth to twins while still asleep.

    Pinocchio had a bit of a hard time too… He fell asleep in front of a fire and had his feet burnt off. He’s aready killed the cricket with a mallet. He gets tied to a rock and thrown off a cliff and later in the story is chased bullied arrested and thrown into jail.

    And we all know what Rumpelstiltskin translates as, don’t we boys and girls?

  • Dom

    It would be more convincing if he didn’t quote a blogger named “Binky”.

  • Russ in Texas

    There are times when I like Mark Steyn.
    At other times, I find him a humorless cultural myrmidon. This is one of them. The only way those dots get connected is by driving at 90 miles an hour down the Highway of Idiotic Assumptions.

    /watched lots of Sesame Street
    //never had any issues with recognizing monsters
    ///has a kid who thinks Rodan is AWESOME

  • Tedd

    I guess it’s too much to hope for that Popeye will make a comeback.

  • Paul Marks

    Well Tedd – my grandfather (God rest his soul) liked Popeye.

    “I have had all I can stand and I can not stands no more….”

    Popeye’s sense of grammar was (is?) much like mine – nonexistent.

    As for the post………….

    I do not know (or care) whether Mitt Romney really loves or hates Big Bird.

    What I care about is that if people like PBS they should pay for it – 100%. No “contribution” from the taxpayers.

    The defund-PBS position is the first thing that Mitt Romney has said that I actually really like (which says a lot about the campaign so far).

    Can anyone see David Cameron campaigning for the end of the BBC tax “license fee”?


    Which shows there is a least some difference between Dave-the-useless and Mitt Romney.

  • Alisa

    Not all kids like gore and being frightened, RAB. I never did, and I know enough kids (and adults) who don’t.

  • veryretired

    My kids all grew up with the Sesame Street characters and Mr Rogers and they seem OK. They all have very vivid imaginations, love movies, and seem to enjoy theatricality in its various forms, although that may come from some very deliberate steps on my part to expose them to these things while they were young. At least I hope so.

    Personally, I’m a fan of the Swedish Chef, and love Animal’s singing. If the weather cooperates, I’m almost certain to break into an imitation of his “A Foggy Day in London Town”. When they were younger, the groaning and pleas to stop from the back seat of the car made my day.

    Oddly enough, that’s the usual reaction to my singing, which is why I’m generally limited to the birthday song, and the star spangled banner at baseball games.

    My main concern with the show was that I couldn’t see how any real life teacher could compete with its manic pacing and flamboyant characters when it came time for the kids to start real school.

    As it turned out, there wasn’t too much problem there, although they did have periods of boredom, but that stemmed more from their being pretty bright in general, taking after their mother, than from TV.

    The one thing I know I did right as a parent was to encourage, cajole, and teach them how to read well.

    Given my painfully obvious flaws and failures as a parent, that’s a comfort.

    Never liked Big Bird, though. I thought he was a dimwit.

  • RAB

    I didn’t say all kids Alisa (there are always some wimps) and horror films are so dreadfully unpopular arn’t they? 🙂

    But really, the original Fairy Tales (couldn’t have a better name than Grimm could they?) were meant to be instructive and a primer for grown up life. If you don’t instill a sense of fear into your offspring, how do you stop them sticking their fingers in the fire or the fan?

  • Alisa

    Who are you calling a wimp???!!!:-) Don’t like horror movies to this day – even those that are not scary.

    Never liked the BB myself, VR, and the Swedish Chef is delicious:-)

  • I have to agree with Russ in Texas on this one.

    Consider that while Sesame Street is allegedly claiming there are no monsters out there, the rest of society is suggesting that all adult males are a predatory danger. Likewise, all sorts of horrid anti-liberty legislation is proposed “for the children”.

  • Laird

    Steyn may (probably is) indulging in a bit of hyperbole here, but his fundamental point seems valid. His observation on Sesame Street’s humanization (and normalization) of monsters is an interesting one, which I hadn’t considered before. I’ll have to give that more thought, but at first blush it makes sense.

    Also, although he didn’t mention this, Sesame Street’s pacing is frenetic, which (I believe) is a major contributor to the dismal attention span of most Americans. It doesn’t get full credit for this; MTV quickly piled on, and the fast-cut techniques of movie editors certainly contributed. But I think SS was the first to use this style in a major way, and several generations of children have now been raised on it. That can’t be good. It’s completely different from Mr. Rogers, who was so quiet and calm as to be soporific, but that’s good for kids, especially very young ones. The two shows couldn’t be more different.

  • Ernie G

    Sesame Street’s humanizing of monsters is similar to Disney’s anthropomorphizing of wild animals. The effect in the Disney case are people being mauled by “cute” animals, and anti-hunting campaigns to protect “Bambi.”

  • Russ

    Well, yeah, Ernie, that holds, if you assume that people are idiot enough to take t.v. shows as reality.

    The proximate cause there isn’t the t.v. show, but the idiocy. To quote the Reverend Hicks, “Oh My God, we lost a moron!”

  • BigFatFlyingBloke

    I think the subconscious associations are real when it comes to kids programming. In the case of Disney I am sure this results in an association of “Wild Animal X” = “Cute” = “Must Protect It”, when the reality is rather less clean.

    For my part I never much liked Sesame Street or Disney Films as a kid, I found them boring and… “off”… for reasons I couldn’t articulate and to this day have a very low tolerance for any schmaltzy programs.

    As a kid I watched Japanese manga adaptions than anything else (because it that’s what was on TV most of the time).