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Sesame Street to tackle divorce, for real this time

Discussion in 'Sesame Street' started by Oscarfan, Dec 10, 2012.

  1. heralde

    heralde Well-Known Member

    I always thought they were too hasty in pulling the first attempt at tackling divorce. Did they really expect kids not to get upset? Divorce is an upsetting thing. Kids have to learn to deal with those feelings too.

    I don't know, to me it's kind of wimpy to introduce the topic after it's already happened to Abby. It's avoiding all those painful emotions. Kids in real life won't be so lucky. And while divorce is actually happening to them, they're not just going to say "Oh well Abby was happy later on, so everything must be cool!" :rolleyes: Divorce is a long, painful process that will last long after the episode ends.

    It's typical of my issues with the show the way it is now. It's all sanitized and avoiding real feelings.
  2. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    That does bring up a logical point. We rarely got to see any of the parents, and usually when we did, it was the mother. Even the Two Headed Monster got a mother. We never saw or heard mentions of any dads... except Cookie Monster in that one Conversations with my Father parody. These guys have Daddy issues, or something? On an example of another kid's show, they never mention or see the fathers of the kids in that new Cat in the Hat show, and both kids are very close to their respective mothers. Then they had the Christmas episode where they actually bring the fathers into the story briefly. I guess that hints that their fathers work all the time, but then again, most of the episodes I've seen (I Love Martin Short, what can I say?) take place in the middle of the day.

    I don't see why after one attempt with bad results they completely abandoned it. They should have taken a different approach and tried again sooner. I think the main problem isn't so much with Snuffy, but rather Alice. Clearly this wasn't meant to have been a particularly bitter divorce, but there's something about leaving a family with a baby/toddler seems to be a little harsh (though it realistically happen, but some families stay together long enough for the children to grow up to a reasonable age). In fact, rereading the description THE problem they had was with Alice's reaction...

    Realistic but Dark. Very dark and too dark for a kid's show. At least a preschool kid's show. Fat Albert showed the arguing, but that works for the older age group who have a slightly better understanding.

    Actually, that's the smart thing, and the same brilliant choice behind showing the hurricane episode this year from the aftermath. It's not that they won't show what happened retrospectively, but dealing with the aftermath is the best way to tell kids that things are going to be all right, and thus there's no need to panic. In a lot of cases things aren't all right, but that's a messy matter for when the kids are older. I'd hate to see a scene in which Abby's mother comes in and says "I'm leaving your dad because we married too early in life for all the wrong reasons and I'm blaming him for any crushed dreams I had that were unrealistic goals anyway."

    It's very important to tell little kids things are going to be alright, even if they aren't really. Yet most of the divorces I know (and there's a LOT of them) happened when the kids were relatively old enough to understand what was going on. Sad thing is, some of them were pretty rough and there was one very bad example of the kids being very unadjusted. Not naming names, one divorced happened a long time coming with an abusive husband and things are as messy as a sewer system still, another left the kids pretty much thieving drug addicts, and one wasn't really so bad because the kid was spoiled enough by his father. Then there's one more that happened shockingly late in the marriage when the kids were all adults. Heck, my parents almost got one until the baby sister arrived. My sister saved my parents marriage.
  3. mbmfrog

    mbmfrog Active Member

    If Elmo's in this, was this before or after the you-know what scandal ?

    Still, Divorce is always a touchy subject to discuss in modern times when we're surrounded by the way the media frames it. It's a difficult and ugly subject for anyone to go through. :(
  4. Daffyfan2003

    Daffyfan2003 Active Member

    I was going to ask the same thing. I'm assuming if this is airing soon, it may have been taped prior to Kevin's departure.

    I know we're getting a bit off subject with this, but again, I can understand since I was wondering as well.
  5. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    Sad thing is, a few kid's shows beat Sesame Street to the punch. I think Arthur really handled Buster well by not mentioning it until a while down the road, and only because the other kids were overly sensitive and thought he was going to be lonely and miserable on father's day. Fat Albert, like I said, actually showed it happening and having the kid go through depression until the junkyard gang set him straight. Then of course there are various resource and children's books that explain the subject. Kids only need to know that they're splitting up and it isn't their fault and things will be fine (unless the divorce was because one of the parents was an abusive psychopath, but that's a very messy detail). The deeper, complicated, and depressing stuff is something they'd have to deal with later, when they're adults. Sesame's job is just that. Tell the kids things will be okay, and not to sweat the details.
  6. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    I get what you're saying Drtooth, but it's not like SST tried to tackle divorce from day one... the infamous divorce episode was around, what, 1992 or so? Some 23 years or so.
  7. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    Yeah. It's not like they didn't try, but they kinda got bad results with it and never brought the topic up again with the exception of the one about the bird that lives in two trees or whatever it was. Shame it took them this long. Because of that, they were beaten to the punch multiple times. Though the Fat Albert episode (they did two of them, one was later on and pictured a much more bitter fight between parents) was from the 70's and 80's...

    I know Marc Brown wrote a non Arthur book about it. he pointed that out at that thing I mentioned in another thread. And it was suggested by child psychologists.
  8. JonnyBMuppetMan

    JonnyBMuppetMan Active Member

    It was definitely before. Kevin not only performed Elmo and a few other characters in the video, but according to Muppet Wiki, he directed it as well.

    http://muppet.wikia.com/wiki/Kevin_Clash#Production_credits
  9. heralde

    heralde Well-Known Member

    See I don't see those as bad results. They were just human results. We can't always rush in and make sure kids are "all right" 24/7 and never upset. That's not real life. Kids have every right to be angry and upset during a divorce. It seems to me the only people benefiting from kids not panicking are the parents who are trying to avoid guilt.

    I just don't think it makes divorce real enough. A kid might see this Abby segment and think "Well divorce is something that happens to other people and they're fine now but it's not something I need to worry about." But if divorce actually does happen to them, it's a very different story. It's a lot harder to handle when it's actually happening to you.
  10. DTF

    DTF Member

    Taking that to the extreme, though, kids can always think, "Well, it happens to someone else" unless they go through it themselves. I sure see enough of that with people who - if they ever did do a will or estate plan - it was in their 20s when they named a guardian for their kid, and now they're in their 80s and that kid who the will names a guardian for is a 50-year-old Executor. People don't like to think about death or divorce. And, adults don't want to be blamed either - divorce is so comlpex that kids could think it's always one way when it's not. (Plus, adults don't want to take blame for things, sadly.)

    WHen you think about it, the Abby approach is the same as Mr. Hooper's death - we don't see him in the hospital on life support. We don't see him calling all the grandMuppets and dying a few minutes after talking to Big Bird one last time, and Big Bird saying, "If I hadn't talked to him he wouldn't have died!" (An actual quote from my then 7YO cousin who knew our grandpa was calling the grandkids to say goodbye one last time. She thought he was waiting till he talked to everyone and so if he hadn't talked to her he'd have stayed alive)

    That's the kind of misunderstanding kids make, and while it would have been good to tweak the Snuffy episode to talk about feelings a little more, you'd have still had the problem that - unless they broke the fourth wall and explained to kids that it wasn't going to happen to them just becasue their parents fight - it would be hard not to scare them needlessly. (Although I should add that, having not seen the Snuffy ep., it's possible that they *did* have another character say, "But, my parents fight and they never get divorced.")

    Children need to be eased into things. This is a good start. Maybe later they can have flashbacks - I would think if you frame it a certain way kids say know "this was in the past" - in the Abby story so we can know it had a beginning, middle and an end just like a storybook. Once the concept is explained, *then* they can go over more of the raw emotions.

    It would have been too scary if Mr. Hooper had called the grandMuppets and said goodbye hours before his death, like my grandpa 14.5 years ago. However, it would have scared kids needlessly (callings omeone won't kill them) and painted an unrealistic picture (not everyone gets the chance to saya last goodbye). Afterward, though, in a flashback or remembering it after the fact of his deth has been set up, maybe it could hve worked.

    Some of this is, of course speculation - I don't know how how a tweaked Snuffy Plan would have worke. However, I do know that there's one very good reason I think they used Abby, one that I'm surprised nobody on here has mentioned yet. (Someone did bring up the bird with two nests, though, which I also recalled.) It's a reason that I thought would be the first thing they'd have thought of.

    Magic can't solve it.
  11. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member


    I see what you're getting at, but we all have to realize, this is for 3-5 year olds. They do need to realize everything's okay, even if it's a little dishonest. They're more mature than we realize, sure... but messy and complex will just make this thing incredibly difficult for the child to understand. It's like when they tackled Mr. Hooper's death, they said he was gone and never coming back. They did not say "Mr. Hooper was fighting off an life long illness, and in the end, we all die." Older kids know that, but the target audience doesn't need to know. If you tell a little kid about mortality, they'll either not underhand the concept or freak the heck out that they're going to die, even eventually. When you're old enough, you come to terms with these things. There are many reasons why parents get divorced... do we want to tell kids that mommy or daddy was cheating at that age? That's for them to find out and learn later. DTF put it very succinctly.

    Actually, I have to admit, showing the parents fighting isn't exactly a good idea anyway. There was this episode of Arthur where the parents got into a big fight, and through the entire episode Arthur and D.W. worried that their parents would get a divorce. At one point, they feared repercussions of custody battles, in an imagine spot Arthur never got to see D.W. or Pal (which is his dog anyway). There's a real fear that if they show parents fighting then getting a divorce, kids who aren't going through this WILL think their parents will get a divorce and they'll be in the middle. I swear I was in constant fear of that at some point... scarier still, as I said, it almost happened. They still fight a lot. They're VERY passive aggressive people.

    Like I said before, the Fat Albert episode works fine for older kids. It shows quite a few arguments (The father even making a nasty comment about the wife "Spending all [his] money"). Albert is for 7-10 year olds. They understand complexity more.
  12. heralde

    heralde Well-Known Member

    Yeah I definitely get what you're saying as well. I guess I just don't have the faith that the episode will be as deep as the Hooper episode.

    Yeah Fat Albert did a good job. The only thing that bothered me was how all the pressure was on the child to accept the change.
  13. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    Death is a very permanent and depressing thing. What made the Hooper episode powerful is that we hide death from children, especially in ridiculous, heavy handed ways in kid's television in this country. No one can die. They're perfectly alright but you never see them again. And anytime someone's implied to die, that's when you know that character is coming back. Even mentioning a death in passing is taboo. For a while they had to completely hide the fact that Ghosts were dead people in Casper and even Real Ghostbusters (and they planned an episode about what Slimer was before he died too). Then you look at anime, and death's all around it. Even in the little kiddy stuff like Doraemon and Anpanman. When we get one of those over here, they butcher any reference to death they can, and that stuff is meant for 7-12 year olds. Meanwhile, the original versions get very emotionally manipulative when a character dies, and in certain shows, characters randomly come back to life back and forth.

    The fact that we can't even mention death in an action cartoon for older kids is reason enough Hooper's death was powerful.
  14. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    I wonder if this will lead to Sesame Workshop releasing the Sesame Street News "Bird Family" sketch on DVD or online, or even if they'll release portions of the "Snuffy Gets a Divorce" episode (now that I think about it, I want that to be a bonus feature on Old School Volume 5, if we get a fifth volume).
  15. Daffyfan2003

    Daffyfan2003 Active Member

    Really? I've been wondering about that too. After all, they did talk about Casper's history in the movie. Slimer's is still in question, especially how he got so slimey where Casper is more of just a semi-visible being with no slime/ecto plasm whatsoever. Okay. I'm getting way off topic. I guess this is a better discussion for the ToonZone forums, but since Drtooth mentioned it I thought I'd post my thoughts on that.

    Now, back to Sesame Street....

    Yeah. I think in the special that they should maybe have Snuffy appear and make some mention of his parents being divorced as well. I guess that's been in question since they decided not to air that episode.

    Thanks for that info. That's what I was thinking, but I wanted to be sure.
  16. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member


    Eh... the movie doesn't really count for various reasons. The only Casper cartoon I know that dealt with ghosts being the thing you turn into when you die (also barring the 1990's cartoon based on the movie) was the one where he becomes friends with a Fox, and the fox becomes a ghost at the end. In fact, the 1950's series went to great lengths to hide the fact he was a dead kid, basically saying that he was born a ghost and raised by a ghost family. I forgot exactly where I read that, though.

    As for Slimer, Ghostbusters Wiki has this quote:

  17. DTF

    DTF Member

    Even sitcoms, "Full House" mentioned the mom more than all previous ones *combined* (okay, nos tats to be sure, but it almost has to be) and there were real effects from missing her, both shown and implied. (Anyone who thinks the dad not discilpning Michelle till almost age 4 and his obsessive cleaning can't be linked to depression doesn't fully understand eath, and I don't care if the writers didn't intend it that way.:) And don't even get me started on other show types.

    There's an element of TV, though, that's *supposed* to be escape; that's why "Dallas" lost viewers because a season had been a dream, but if Bobby(?) Ewing had just reappeared after a year (and I suspect they tried to find a way to do it) few would have batted an eye. There's a reason i stopped watching TV int he middle '90s and most of "Full House" I saw on reruns, and it's not just becasue I dropped shows as I advanced in school and got busier and didn't pick new ones up. There is too much violence, gore, and sex on TV for my tastes.

    Should Sesme Street remain as tranquil, with no problems, as TV was in the '50s-'early '80s? No, I think there can be a happy medium. We're not talking introducing lots of chaos, or even having the gang from the Old 1-2 ("Barney Miller"'s precinct) pay a visit. Like Pam's death on "Full House," like Mr. Hooper's death on "Sesame Street," it's not like we're seeing all the gory details.

    Can they use Abby's parents in the same way? The more I think about it, I think it would really help tohave a character saying an iconic line like "Magic won't solve it" int he same way Susan's "Mr. Hooper's not coming back." yes, I know it's cheesy to sum it up in one or two lines. But, unless you want the gory details, that's sort of what television does. And,the huge details of something like divorce can't be shown totally in 1 show with a beginning, middle, and end. It takes a season, nay, a series. (And even that's not enough, as I show in the "Full House Chronology") No, episodes don't span only 30 minutes in the TV universe of the characters. Most take place over days, the beginning can be months before the end of the episode in rare cases, and a M*A*S*H one spanned a year! However, it's still only showing 22-25 minutes worth of those 3-5 days over which the episode takes place.
  18. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    I heard they lost a bunch of viewers before that, constantly writing themselves into corners and getting gimmicky and incomprehensible and ticking the viewers off. That's why Dallas had that retcon that I guess drove everyone away.

    But my point being, I never got the whole "You can't mentioned death" bit in cartoon shows. Sure, goofy cartoony escapist shows I get, but action shows and ones where death is integral to the plot are kinda ridiculous. Personally, I liked how Bravestarr dealt with drug abuse by actually killing off a kid who was using. That's a very important piece of realism right there.
  19. Convincing John

    Convincing John Well-Known Member

    Speaking of mentioning death to kids, we saw this film in elemenatry School called "Play Safe". Zip ahead to the 6:00 mark and watch what happens with "Jimmy". Technically that film was for kids...and we saw it pretty early on, like second or third grade. It freaked a lot of kids out, but that was what those films were designed to do: scare the crap outta kids so they'd behave.



    (I'll refrain from saying the obvious line from "Mr. Lizard's World" on Dinosaurs.)

    Oh, and the Casper cartoon you mentioned about the fox was called "There's Good Boos Tonight":

  20. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    I'm preprogrammed to think of this whenever I hear "Play Safe."



    Because every dollar store cartoon compilation, both VHS and DVD is required by law to have it.

    As for that one, scaring the crap out of kids so they'd behave was a freaking market in Germany. You know, the story about the kid who sucked his thumbs and a monster cut them off. Not to mention Krampus. We really coddle our kids here. Seeing Germany, I can see why. But we really need to come forward and say to kids, "we all die. The point is to not run into traffic and make it happen sooner."


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