I cannot ignore this:  Katy Perry’s spot with Elmo is pulled from “Sesame Street”?  What is this world coming to?

I understand controversy – it’s what the world is made of.  The war in Afghanistan, health care, and the mosque controversy downtown – a few among many serious issues — are bound to polarize people.  While I have opinions about those things, I get it that people feel differently.  There’s a fear component in most disagreements, a sense of feeling threatened – and that’s what makes people take sides.

There are even biological reasons for this:  our brains are always looking for who is “safe” – who is aligned with us.  The ones who are aligned with us are our friends, the ones who are not aligned with us are not safe – and, therefore, our enemies.  One might even say it is the nature of being human to have controversy – to be always on guard for danger — and to defend against it.

But, Elmo running around with Katy Perry in a funny little dress is dangerous?  Are we afraid that our children will be marred for life for seeing some slight cleavage (what little there is…)?  Cleavage, which – by the way – they are probably not even noticing?  I’m sad that “Sesame Street” caved to the pressure of a few moms who found this offensive.

Sure, we can watch one after another advertisements for erectile dysfunction – and be warned against “an erection lasting four or more hours” (I mean, REALLY?  I have things to do!) – and a barely-there breast is threatening?

I don’t remember a brouhaha over the daring costume worn by “Wonder Woman” back in the day, not to mention the ga-zillions of Barbi dolls given to little girls of all ages — she of the unrealistically and impossibly slim body and preternaturally perky, projectile breasts — possibly giving rise (sorry!) to self-esteem problems and unnatural expectations — in both sexes.

I realize that even taking this much of a stand for Elmo and Katy getting their playdate on the show seems to be picking a “side.”  I’m for innocent, enriching programs for children.  I remember when my son, Josh, was little – and  “Sesame Street” and “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” were two safe havens in an often scary world.  I miss Mr. Rogers and his gentle manner – and I’m grateful that, after all these years, “Sesame Street” remains the wonderful, age-appropriate learning forum that it is – and this skit is no exception.

To those moms who complained – what is it that makes you feel that you or your child or your family is threatened by this innocent skit?

Here’s a story from when Josh was little that I thought about while watching Elmo defend Katy Perry on “Good Morning America” this morning:

The summer that Josh was turning five years old,  we were invited to spend a few weeks with a friend and her children at a house in St. Tropez.   I know that the culture in France is different and wanted to prepare my young son.  I talked to him about how we would go to the beaches in St. Tropez and that many of them were “topless”.

It never occurred to me to explain what a “topless beach” was.

The vacation was magnificent – one of the best my family has ever had.  We went to the beach everyday.  Beautiful sandy beaches, the blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea shining in the sun with small rippling waves onto the shore, my son and his two friends at a “beach camp” for a few hours everyday playing volley ball with the young women instructors – all of them in little string bikini bottoms – and nothing else – all within sight of us and the rest of the sun-bathers: women, young and old – and even VERY old – dressed, or un-dressed, exactly the same way, myself and my friend included, skimpy bathing suit bottoms and no tops.  Men and children were all around, reading and playing and paying no mind to the parade of “carnality” around them.

After about a week, Josh was sitting with me on the blanket, and he looked up at me and said, “Mom, I thought you said we were going to a “topless beach.”  I suddenly realized that Josh had no idea what that was.

I said, “Josh, Honey – we ARE at a ‘topless beach!’  Look around – do you see that no one has a bathing suit top on?”

With that, Josh swept his gaze around the glinting sand, covered with blankets and bodies and breasts.  I practically SAW the metaphorical light bulb go off over his head!  He turned back to me and said, “Mommy!  They’re all different!”

I nodded and said, “Yes, Josh, everyone IS different, everyone has a different body, and so every woman has different breasts.”  He said, “Oh” and that was that.  He ran off to play with his friends.

I never heard another word about it.  He never noticed again. He never commented again.  There was no shame, there was no embarrassment – there was only a practical acceptance that this is the way it is:  everyone is different and bodies are natural and nothing to be ashamed of.

I offer this story in the spirit of rational innocence.  Surely, if I thought my son was in danger, please know that I would never have exposed him to risk.  I have never had an indifferent moment or thought around or about my son since the time he was a wish in my heart to this day – and I don’t expect that to change any time soon.  And, he’s 31 years old now.

I am left in the inquiry of what makes us fear that which is natural and, yes, joyful, in life… wondering what could make us fear even this, a young girl in a cute party dress playing with a puppet?

Perhaps, for this very reason, Elmo and Katy should be able to play on television – as a model of harmless fun, in a silly dress…

Oh, and did you notice?  Elmo isn’t wearing ANYTHING!

Deliciously yours in the Innocence of it All, Linda

Here it is on YouTube:

© Linda Ruocco and “Spiritual Chocolate”, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Linda Ruocco and ”Spiritual Chocolate”  with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Thank you.

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