Thursday, November 11, 2010

54, La Rana

I'm too old for Kermit! Yesterday I noticed several facebook friends marked the 41st birthday of the seminal children's television program Sesame Street. Of course I know who Kermit is, who Bert and Ernie are, who Miss Piggy is. But I was already almost 11 when Sesame Street came out, and frankly I don't think I noticed. That was for little kids. I do remember loving The Electric Company, a PBS franchise that must have tapped my age group more appropriately, but if I have some sentimentality for the teevee of my childhood and youth, I have none at all for Sesame Street. Zilch.

We didn't have a television when I was very young, even though my father worked in the advertising business (very Mad Men, actually). I think it was a form of rebellion on his part. I think we got one about 1963, because I'm pretty sure I remember seeing at least the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination on it. We didn't get a color teevee until way into the 1970s.

There was children's programming that felt mind-numbing and false: Romper Room, Captain Kangaroo, Bozo the Clown. The time I got to actually attend a taping of Bozo the Clown disillusioned me for years: the studio audience sat practically in another room and we had to pretend we could see what was being taped and clap enthusiastically when asked; it was torturously unpleasant, but a useful lesson for life. I loved Saturday morning cartoons: Astro Boy and all that other weird out-of-synch puppetry and animation so mysteriously from Japan. Underdog was a favorite; so droll and witty.

And while I know that Kermit is legendary, and "It's Not Easy Being Green" is a great song (look for the Lena Horne version!), he doesn't move me. A coworker at my old job gave me stuffed Bert and Ernie dolls to decorate a shelf in my office; you could tell this was a significant "remember these eternal icons of childhood fun?" moment for her. I can hear the Bert and Ernie voices in my head, but it's a memory of an adult time not a treasured echo of being a kid. Many times in my adulthood I've tried to track down some childhood experience to try to recapture a flash of remembered magic, sometimes quite successfully. But sorry, Bert, Ernie, I'm glad you've become gay icons, but you don't mean anything to me either! And I've never seen "The Muppet Movie."

Back in the pond, giant green frog.

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