This year, as I’ve done in the past, I attended the San Diego Comic Con International. The place where the biggest Hollywood blockbusters are announced and people sleep outside overnight for the chance of looking at Robert Downey Jr from 100 feet away. Because of these ridiculous time waits, it’s common practice to sit through panels you aren’t interested in for several hours just to watch one for about 40 mins. I found myself in such a situation this year. I was very interested in attending a panel featuring game creator Hideo Kojima. The panel was rather late in the day, and with nothing else to do in the meantime, I ended up sitting in the panel room about 3 hours in advance, having no idea what else was going to be in the room until then. Much to my surprise, one of those panels were for the 50th anniversary of Sesame Street. That’s right, I saw one of the worlds biggest celebrities in the flesh, or fur? I saw Elmo.
Now I had initially wondered who would attend a Sesame Street panel? Comic con itself isn’t directly geared to younger audiences, and I assumed that the shows audience would be too young to intentionally try and attend the panel. While many grew up with Sesame Street, I imagined most wouldn’t be passionate enough to take time out of the busy schedule of Comic Con to try and attend something about Sesame Street. But I was here waiting 3 hours to listen to a man talk about a game nobodies even played yet, so clearly passion isn’t something to be underestimated. The panel itself consisted of puppeteers, producers and human actors. The puppeteers pulled out their puppets a few times, so really the puppets were part of the panel too. It’s really crazy to think that Sesame Street is 50 years old. Even if one never watched it as a child I’m sure characters like Elmo, Oscar the Grouch and Cookie Monster at least sound familiar. Looking back at my childhood I can’t even recall a definitive instance where I watched the show, but all the characters still feel so nostalgic. A sentiment that was clearly reflected by the rest of the audience. Even our world where media is evolving at a pace very few are able to keep up with, there is still a place in our hearts for human sized birds and mathematician vampires.
One question asked by an audience member was about why the show continued to use puppets, when more modern special effects were available. The answer was along the lines of how its the core of what Sesame Street is, what makes it different from everything else. It’s a show about teaching you values and kindness, and instead of just reading off a chalkboard like schools do, it wants to engage its audience and have them learn through humor and through fun. While perhaps it's geared for younger viewers, those are values we could all take heed from.
I would argue many have grown up with those values. My evidence, 2000 people applauding a man in a yellow bird costume. And it’s an enduring success, 30 years is a long time. Not only that but it’s on HBO the platform most would associate with decapitations and excessive nudity, not hugs and learning. All it all, I have to say my favourite part is that Sesame Street is proof that kindness is still in fashion.