Parent Pet Peeves
Mom Against Elmo
The bizarre role models kids look up to
Like most toddlers under the age of 3, Alex is enamored with Elmo, the shaggy red-haired Sesame Street character with the helium-processed voice.
Our house has become a shrine to this fictitious monster. Elmo dolls are in the toy box and in my son’s bed. Cartoon characters of Elmo and his friends cover his potty training seat. At least several times a week, my husband and I listen to the melodic sounds of “lalalalah, lalalalah, Elmo’s World!” coming from the TV, as Elmo gushes about his daily life to his trusty sidekick, Dorothy the goldfish.
I watch with wonder and perhaps some dismay, as Alex watches the Elmo video with a huge grin on face. I wonder: does he ever smile that widely when he sees me?
While I’m glad that Elmo makes my son happy (and has the uncanny ability to make him sit still for at least an hour while I prepare dinner and in some instances, sneak away for a much needed bathroom break), as an adult, I don’t always see the appeal of this little red creature.
Even more disturbing is the fact that Elmo’s songs often give me a bad case of earworm. Imagine waking up at 3 a.m. to use the toilet, and the first noise that pings inside your brain is “Elmo loves his goldfish … his crayon toooooo!”
Like many adults, I don’t like Barney, either, and I’m thankful that those weird, creepy Teletubbies aren’t popular anymore (I hope. Maybe I’m just out of the loop). Although I think Barney is my least favorite. Elmo may be loud, but he’s not the sanctimonious do-gooder that Barney portrays.
The declarations of love these characters proclaim for their young audience sometimes disturbs me as well. In one of my son’s favorite books, Elmo keeps reminding the reader how much he “looooooves” them, popping from behind bushes and bookcases in the library to declare his feelings.
My husband thinks the book is hilarious and worthy of constant mockery. “Elmo loooooves yoooouu!!!!!” he’ll groan in a deep voice that makes Elmo sound like the Dark Lord of the Sith.
It’s interesting that we spend a good part of our children’s childhoods reassuring them and telling them not to be afraid of the dark and calming them when they wake up from nightmares, yet some of the popular icons these kids look up to are in some ways kind of sinister to begin with.
Not to mention, loud, cloying and irritating.
It makes me nostalgic for Bugs Bunny. As a kid, I remember watching Bugs and Fog Horn Leg Horn and Yosemite Sam, and squealing with delight whenever my dad joined me on the couch to laugh at Bugs’ antics.
What I liked about the Looney Tunes characters is they weren’t preachy or mushy – or creepy for that matter. They weren’t always politically correct, and in Yosemite’s case, sometimes they got downright premenstrual.
I didn’t necessarily learn anything from Bugs. But he did get my father and me to spend some quality time together. Clearly, Bugs Bunny was a character we could both love.
Elmo, if you’re listening, for the sake of my son’s happiness I’ll try to endure your pitchy voice the next time we watch you on video. But don’t expect too much loooooove from me. Or I’ll sic Yosemite Sam on you.
Jennifer Lubell is mom to Alex, her toddler. While they don’t quite see eye to eye on Elmo, she allows him to sleep in her son’s bed.