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  2. Sesame Street Season 48
    Sesame Street's 48th season officially began Saturday November 18 on HBO. After you see the new episodes, post here and let us know your thoughts.

Sesame Street's most disturbing bits

Discussion in 'Classic Sesame Street' started by Drtooth, Jun 30, 2015.

  1. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    Okay. Ground rules. This is NOT the "what sketches scared you as a kid" thread, this is not the "this sound or something bothered me and still does" thread... this is the "this sketch is surprisingly disturbing in its subject matter for a kid's show" thread. I'll start it off.

    Now, when I was falling asleep the other night for some bizarre reason I had the faint remembrance of a cartoon where some little girl doesn't want to get up and play and has talking legs. I decided to check it out for myself a few minutes ago and was pretty disturbed to see how dark this sketch was. It's essentially scared straight for weight loss, bordering on thinspiration.



    You'll notice the girl starts out with the thinnest, longest legs that are clearly not of a little girl (unless she's exceptionally tall). Kinda disturbing, but I'm not going to go on about that. By the end of the sketch, the girl doesn't so much have cankles so much as soolnds (for those who don't follow Homestar Runner much, they're what Strong Sad's elephant feet are called). So to make a point about exercising, Sesame Street actually showed a cartoon where a little girl gains like 200 pounds in 57 seconds. Not "she grew up to be fat," she grew disgustingly fat before the eyes of 5 year olds. Imagine how horrifying this would be in less stylized animation. And yeah. Her knees "fell asleep." Yeah. Talking body parts essentially died. So yeah. There's that. Morbid obesity and death of whimsical characters. Funny little skit you have there.

    Think about it this way. When Sesame Street started that initiative about healthy living years back, it may have been anvilicious. It may have been incredibly obnoxiously overboard with its message. But NEVER has it once said anything about gaining weight. It took the gentle approach of brainwashing kids to eat veggies (which people would actually like eating if they cooked them properly) and telling them to go out and play (something kids should do naturally). This cartoon was made all the way back near the beginning when they had the buffet style of educational approach, so clearly they felt instead of many little friendly reminders to eat veggies and get out and play they dropped a freaking scare tactic with a loud thud. To put it this way, know those "The Real Cost of smoking" commercials where they rip their skin off and teeth out? Imagine that during a commercial break for Sophia the First. THAT'S how bad this was.
     
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  2. mr3urious

    mr3urious Well-Known Member

    What also makes it disturbing is that unlike other cautionary tale segments on the show, it has a downer ending. Wanda never gets exercise and will lead to a future of washing herself with a rag on a stick.
     
  3. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    And it would work had it at least been played for laughs. For the most part, Sesame Street knows its audience and knows how they'd react. Other cautionary tales, even at their darkest manage to have humorous exaggeration. Even Wee Willie Whimple had a great Mad Magazine-esque "YEEEEECHHHH!" at the end of the segment to alleviate the message.

    But this... and the dissonance of it being a Bruce Caynard cartoon. His stuff is usually light and wacky (with that exception of the girl who's pet died, even then he changed his usual style to something slightly more serious). There's nothing wacky about this level of grotesque weight gain and a narrator saying how hard it was for her to move. It's pretty much one of those German fairy tales about kids who suck their thumbs and get them cut off somehow. In Bruce Caynard Sesame Street form.

    For an extra level of disturbing, I accidentally caught a second of one of TLC's shockumentaries about an incredibly obese 20 year old girl...with legs as thick as the cartoon girl. This isn't "if you don't exercise, you'll gain weight." This is "exercise right now or you'll immediately become a mutant hogbeast!" Remember how I said a while back that if you were to explain the premise of some old Sesame Street skits, they'd sound like Creepypastas? This is a good example.
     
  4. Luke kun

    Luke kun Well-Known Member

    It does look very Shel Silverstein-ish. But that's not the point. WHY WOULD THEY AIR SOMETHING LIKE THIS ON SESAME STREET?
     
  5. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    Now that I think of it, know what that reminds me of?

    "HEY KIDS!!! If you don't exercise with Binky, you'll grow up to be WORTHLESS!!!!"

    And the episode of South Park about "A Million Little Fibers." Almost wonder if Trey and Matt saw this skit as inspiration.

    This sketch was posted before, but I'll post it again here.



    Notice. It's not the giant rabbit or the tree troll. Again, this isn't "this sketch is scary," it's "these skits are mindblowingly disturbing given their venue."

    Sesame Street is no stranger to abstract animation. The Jazzy Numbers series had some slightly jarring images that came off strange. Nothing I'd say really creepy. Some stuff (Twin Washington Busts!!) incomprehensibly weird, but overall fun and wacky in an artsy kind of way.

    But what makes this sketch disturbing and not just scary is how pinpoint accurate in its LSD bad-trippiness it is. Everything about it manages to hit a creepy button.
    1. The lack of music gives this an eerie tone. The only sound being a strange "VVvhhhhhhoooooohhhh" which makes the thing even creepier than needs be. If a wacky music track and a wackier sound effect had been placed instead, it would be creepy, but not oddly upsetting.
    2. A cartoon segment about body horror. Much like Wanda's rapid 400 pound weight gain, showing a body morphing like that without comedic effect in a venue that's not about mutations (TMNT, Toxic Crusaders) is downright mindboggling. Let alone this could play at any time after Big Bird sings a fun song about sharing or what have you.
    3. The visuals are an uncanny valley of realistic and stylized. The woman has a pinhead and dead eyes. Even if her face didn't mush around like Clayface, you have to admit that's a creepy looking drawing. Even for the 70's.
    4. The pacing is just so Nightmare like. Intentionally so. So you're pretty much purposely inviting this into kid's night terrors. Way to go. Terrify kids with something so horrifying that even their wildest imaginations can't manifest.
    5. There is no educational value or reason for this to be seen outside of an animation festival. This animator clearly trolls Sesame Street with creepy cartoons, sure. But even just a voice over or tie in to "everyone looks different, but we're all the same" would have saved this from being a disturbing, nightmarish skit to something creepy but with a purpose.
    Why was this on a kid's show, especially one that was extremely thorough on what can and can't be on the show?
     
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  6. fuzzygobo

    fuzzygobo Well-Known Member

    I was never too receptive to "We All Sing With the Same Voice". After years of stressing how unique we are as individuals, to be lumped together as we are all the same (especially the same adenoidal whine), seems a little... creepy. At least Smurfy-creepy.

    Even the one dissenting line "Sometimes I get mad and mean" sung with a singalongish voice with a kid flashing a big toothy grin... strains for credibility a little bit.

    I guess the one part that I can't get past, while I appreciate the sentiment of tolerance, equality, respect (now that these kids are all grown up, I hope in today's world they can practice what they preach), I feel rubbed the wrong way that these kids feel they will grow up in a world where they will NEVER encounter any conflict. It's a nice ideal to strive for, but not realistic. Even when the grown ups on the street occassionally disagree, they will strive to resolve their differences.
    But as peaceful as it might seem to live in a world with no conflicts or differences of opinion, it will also get very boring after a while.
     
  7. Luke kun

    Luke kun Well-Known Member

    I thought that face morph skit taught kids about noses...
     
  8. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member


    Never liked that one either. On the one hand, it's a little ham fisted and clumsy in its message. There's that old chestnut of a message that kids shows usually give about everyone being special, then you have to tell them that everyone's essentially the same. Both are hard messages to delver at the same time without contradicting each other. Then there's that whole disillusioning reality about how essentially everyone is a cog in the machine (office jobs and such)... but I won't go into that because it distracts from the point. There's many more careful ways to say that "we're really all the same and our outside differences are merely atheistic and our beliefs have common ground, yet we can all be our own individual person." They just didn't find that sweet spot with this one.

    Then there's the fact that it is indeed disturbing, even on a very unintentional level. I get what the filmmakers are trying to do here. Problem is, the message gets botched because of this whole Children of the Corn/The Borg execution. The lyrics have some poorly worded choices that can be taken the wrong way, sure. But add in the visuals and the message becomes less "we're all the same" to "ASSIMILATE!" And not in a "conform to society's norms" kinda way. A "Resistance is USELESS!" type way. Good catch on that one.
     
  9. GonzoLeaper

    GonzoLeaper Well-Known Member

    As someone who gets somewhat amused by both the kinda disturbing and scary skits on Sesame Street, I can appreciate this thread. (But I more than likely would have been freaked out by a kid.) By the way, the Borg's quote is "Resistance is futile!" (Sorry- the Trekkie in me had to point that out- lol.:fanatic::concern:)
     
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  10. fuzzygobo

    fuzzygobo Well-Known Member

    Another one that didn't sit well with me was Ernie borrowing Herbert Birdsfoot's vacuum cleaner. It was so out of character for Ernie (only second season, still trial and error) to go from easygoing pal to raging psychopath.

    I gather they were trying to teach (if they could never enforce) don't jump to conclusions or let your imagination run away with you. I think the subject was better handled a number of seasons later when Ernie misses Bert, then imagines Bert being kidnapped by monsters.

    Here we get Ernie ripping poor innocent Herb a new one. I never found it funny, and the final shot of Herb's reaction, plus that "TOOOOIIIINNNGGGG!!!!!!!" used to push me over the cliff.

    I can watch it now, but when I was little I'd turn the TV off. Not out of fear, but being put off by it.
     
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  11. cjd874

    cjd874 Well-Known Member

    How about this one?

    So I get the educational point about brushing teeth...but it's so poorly set up. You can't sing well unless you brush your teeth? Seriously. And in terms of what makes this most disturbing: the talking, toothy bird almost looks furry. And the hands breaking through the mountain at the beginning...yeesh.
     
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  12. Luke kun

    Luke kun Well-Known Member

    What the frog was that? Maybe that was the people who made the Last Flight of the Champion.
     
  13. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    That's a very special cartoon, I guess... I know the earlier skits were meant to be weird and surreal, but there's something really off about this one. And coming from the same series that had a cartoon about an elevator opening to find 2 twin George Washington busts, that's saying something.

    The imagery is too weird to be surreal or psychedelic. It's too organized to be nonsense. It really seems they built this world of...whatever you call it... weirdness isn't strong enough to be an understatement. But they built this entire odd world where, while nothing is supposed to make sense, it goes too far and bogs down in too many questions. And to me, the least of which are talking toothbrush or toothy bird. Toothy bird makes sense as it's a dental care skit. But it really feels like Mahatma (and yes, throwing a weird name for the sake of weird names is also used poorly here) is in a weird little world of his own. On the one hand, it does feel disturbing. On the other hand this could have been a great series of skits about Mahatma the bird and his Truman Show-esque "everything is made for him" world. But as a stand alone, it's just...everything is a BLAM except for the tooth care bits. There's too much going on at once. It feels that one level of weirdness could have been pealed off and it would have come across as strange but acceptably so. Either the mountains giving him breakfast or "How can you sing if your teeth aren't clean?" should have been taken out. Feels like they were trying to say "How can you be so cavalier about forgetting to brush your teeth? Dental hygiene is important, and you won't be singing and happy when the dentist has to pull out that drill." But it came out as "Purple! Because Ice Cream has no bones."

    Disturbing is right. How could this have been considered coherent? I personally find the entire sketch hilariously bad. Yet, I tried making a YTP out o it and it was too freaking incoherent to do anything funny with. I'm not proud of it at all. Can't post it here because the only thing I could think of was immature sex jokes.
     
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  14. fuzzygobo

    fuzzygobo Well-Known Member

    The Frog and The Ox. A prideful boastful little frog, trying to become the biggest creature on earth, inflates himself until he explodes.

    Years later I found out this was an Aesop's Fable, and Sesame even produced a series of Fable cartoons (The Fox and the Grapes, etc.) But with no frame of reference, this cartoon seemed that much more jarring.

    Aesop had a way of teaching lessons. Good behavior gets rewarded, bad behavior gets punished. Severely.

    At least the colors in the background were nice.
     
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  15. mr3urious

    mr3urious Well-Known Member

    This one here is mostly funny because of Jim Thurman's narration, which almost sounds ad-libbed, but what made me feel compelled to put this here was because kids just witnessed a sentient vacuum explode before their very eyes! The narrator doesn't so much as acknowledge the loss of poor Vanessa the Vacuum Cleaner. :cry:

     
  16. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    I'm just going to call it.



    These... just ...these.

    Now, as one who has studied art, I get what they're trying to do here. But, let's face it. It's Philip Glass. Ain't NOBODY like Philip Glass! And they're exposing Philip FREAKING Glass to kids. Sure, it's not the outright body horror of "woman on LSD has a horrible freak out while looking in the mirror" or "Wanda suddenly becomes the world's fattest girl before your eyes." But gahhhuhhck. Say what you will about Disco and Sesame Street trying to cash in and or parody that fad, exposing them to Philip Glass's "art" should be a crime.
     
  17. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    I've been doing some thinking about the first sketch I put on here. The one I like to refer to as "Little Girl becomes TLC show subject." Now, whatever someone could say about that, the message wasn't fun nor friendly.

    Now, specifically for comparison I'm putting up a similarly themed PSA.



    It has the same things technically. This one's more about boredom eating than inactivity. But the same gag still is present. It introduces the manner in a cute jingle, the kid doesn't get horrifically fat (he looks like a typical cartoon fat person), and here's where there's a major difference.

    Wanda's cartoon essentially dooms her to the fate of being grotesquely huge, where as "Watch out for the Munchies" shows that it's a reversible process. The kid gets back to his original weight by the end of his PSA. Wanda probably winds up on a scooter.
     
  18. Luke kun

    Luke kun Well-Known Member

    IT'S MY FUUUNCTIOOOOOON!
    (I had to think of the Brave Little Toaster when I saw that.)
     
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  19. Pig's Laundry

    Pig's Laundry Well-Known Member


    Wow,just wow what the heck were they even trying to teach kids with this one. This is disturbing as heck!
     
  20. Pig's Laundry

    Pig's Laundry Well-Known Member

    Tv Tropes has a nice page on this matter -http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/NightmareFuel/SesameStreet
     
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