Big Bird (photo: US Department of State via Wikicommons)
Yeah, hold the fuck on a minute. Remember back in March when we wrote about Republicans losing their collective shit over the myth of cancel culture? They were so up in arms apoplectic about Potato Heads, Dr. Seuss shutting down the racism in his own books, and the Muppets posting a warning message about dated racial stereotypes before movies on Disney+ — you could see the steam coming out of their white hoods.
“Why are you coming after Kermit?” they asked on Fox News. “What harm could Kermit ever do?” As it turns out, none at all. But apparently, Big Bird is a way bigger danger to society. Yes, the Republicans are coming for Sesame Street.
What is the long-running and beloved show’s biggest crime? Did Grover do a troubling impersonation of an Asian person? Did Cookie Monster make a transphobic joke? Well, no. The right would be perfectly okay with any of that. In fact, the Sesame Street muppets went out of their way to save children’s lives. The horror!
“Big Bird” tweeted from his verified account: “I got the COVID-19 vaccine today! My wing is feeling a little sore, but it’ll give my body an extra protective boost that keeps me and others healthy. Ms. @EricaRHill even said I’ve been getting vaccines since I was a little bird. I had no idea!”
Ted Cruz (photo: Gage Skidmore via Wikicommons)
Nothing controversial there, right? No racism, no homophobia. Nothing for anyone to get the slightest bit upset about. Well hold on, because perennial shit bucket Ted Cruz managed to find fault in the scientifically un-fault-findable Big Bird statement. And he took to Twitter to attack our favorite giant canary.
“Government propaganda…for your 5 year old!” wrote Cruz.
The president, naturally, saw it a little differently:
“Good on ya, @BigBird. Getting vaccinated is the best way to keep your whole neighborhood safe.”
That’s absolutely the correct response when characters on a children’s TV show use their platform to do good. Cruz is a freaking moron. Because when a public service that saves lives is approved for children — be it a vaccination of any type — as it was for 5–11 year olds last week, Sesame Street can go some way to calming any fears kids might have. Especially when vaccines are probably going to be (and should be) mandated at schools for the start of the next school year, as is the case with other vaccinations. This is how we save lives.
Let’s remember, young children of Sesame Street watching age cannot simply get up off the sofa and walk to the nearest pharmacy or their pediatrician to get the vaccine on their own. So what are the Repubs worried about here: Children watching Big Bird’s intelligent advice, and then nagging their parents until said parents give in and show their kids some love?
Anti-vaxxers are on thin ice because, again, they spent the early part of the year wrongly attacking Democrats because of a warning message. There’s simply no genuine way to justify saying ‘dated racial stereotypes are fine but calming children’s fears about a life-saving shot is wrong.’ Do they even hear their own words?
For the record, Big Bird and the Sesame Street team have always advocated for vaccines. They’ve simply always done the right thing in that regard. This is partly why they’ve become such a trusted source for our kids. It’s entertaining but it also teaches. Frankly, the show is a national treasure.
As the parent of a 9 year old, this writer takes Cruz’s idiocy personally. When the FDA and then the CDC granted emergency usage of the vaccines for 5–11 year olds last week, we spent the next few hours sorting out the appointment for my son’s two shots. The first is happening on the day I’m writing this. I love my son, so of course I want to keep him safe.
At 9, my son is way past Sesame Street age. However, he plays video games and watches gamers on YouTube, something that we regularly check in on. The fact that one of his favorite YouTubers — a guy called Flamingo — tells his viewers to take COVID seriously, is reassuring to both him and us.
Of course, it’s ultimately my wife’s and my job to educate and reassure our child. It’s something that we take very seriously. But it’s good to know that the people he watches for entertainment don’t convey an anti-science message.
L: Elvis Presley (1958) // R: Dolly Parton (photo: Eva Rinaldi via Wikicommons)
It’s not about an agenda or propaganda. That’s fear-mongering bullshit. But when we’re trying to save lives, allow businesses to prosper, and do the right thing, factual information helps. None other than the king, Elvis Presley, helped Americans accept the polio vaccine in the ’50s and in doing so, very likely saved some lives. People listen.
It’s maybe particularly important when it comes to people with an audience on the “other side of the aisle.” Country singer Eric Church, for example, or veteran surf rocker Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. A version of the latter’s old band has performed at Trump rallies but Wilson remains a good soul. And remember when Dolly Parton changed the words of “Jolene” to “Vaccine?” That was spectacular.
Ultimately, COVID isn’t going anywhere so we have to learn to live with it, much like the flu, and so — also like the flu — regular vaccines are going to become part of our normal life. There will always be people who won’t take it for selfish reasons. But we’ve had enough. We’re done with this shit. Get vaccinated and get your children over 5 vaccinated. When it’s OK’d for under 5, get that done too. Let’s move on.