Sunny day, sweepin’ the government away…
U.S. Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney suggested in the first presidential debate (October 4, 2012), that he would consider cutting public funding for PBS, the Public Broadcasting System. Not so quick on his feet, it took incumbent President Barack Obama nearly a week to respond: that Romney would essentially be his own death panel signing off on the end for Big Bird.
Now, perhaps it would have been dirty politics if instead the Democrat campaign spun the commitment as Romney rejecting the cohabitation of Bert and Ernie. And it’s not quite the case that Sesame Street would be closed to traffic with no PBS, since the show is made by a not-for-profit production company – but just airs on PBS. And it’s easy to criticize without being more proactive: it would be great to see Obama manning the phones during a PBS pledge drive! Or, umm, focusing on the… economy?
Yet, the political strategy of targeting what would be missed most by a change in policy is adept and common. Sesame Street is a big part of American popular culture. Generation X’ers and their latch-key kid ilk were practically raised by Big Bird. One can’t imagine Obama making political advertisements bemoaning the end of other less popular PBS shows, let’s say, the usual marathon of Peter, Paul and Mary reunion concerts. One can even conceive the Democrats gleefully celebrating the loss of public broadcasting programs not sympathic to their causes (err, arch-conservative William F. Buckley, Jr. had a long-running show, “The Firing Line,” on PBS). But the point is, people can rally against the possible roasting of Big Bird, especially given that Thanksgiving is near. But appreciating the significance and complexity of the economic recession: old news and boring! Figuring out what to do about a dead ambassador: too complicated!
That kids are supposed to just be kids and not politicized, is lost on both parties. Apparently, Sesame Street gets this, and isn’t too thrilled at being used.
At the same time, Sesame Street has made its mark in popular culture by being inherently political in inculcating a set of values in children, including tolerance and multiculturalism and self-esteem. Kids learn their own politics through such socialization. Too, the head of the company making the children’s show pulls in a hefty salary (enough to be a millionaire), making, by extension, Big Bird part of the 1% in the Occupy Wall Street Sense? And probably the production outfit as a non-profit organization, doesn’t pay much in taxes, thus, sort of, having ex officio membership in the 47% club for which Obama criticizes the percentage of those that don’t even pay taxes. It received stimulus money, too… All of which makes this ad, not to mention this entire electoral diversion, absurd:
Also from this blog: Sesame Street, I Don’t Want To Live On The Moon