I never thought I would be writing about the appropriateness of Katy Perry’s anything. I have however written about how I thought that many products directed at children are not age-appropriate (such as movie tie-ins: The Batmobile has two wheels and the Joker stole a schoolbus: tyke Dark Knight books are Two-Faced transmedia storytelling). But anything negative Muppet-bound? Never!
This is the supposedly offending video — Katy Perry singing new lyrics to her song Hot and Cold with Elmo:
The PBS odbudsman in a blog post called “Was This Show a Must or a Bust(ier)?” describes the situation as
[Katy Perry] was dressed in a short, lime-green outfit and pronounced bustier on top that was widely characterized, and seen, as low cut; not movie star low cut, but low cut….
Sesame Street is not just any other children’s program; it is an iconic broadcast, often brilliant, provocative at times, and it does exist on multiple levels with parents watching along with their children. My guess is that another inch of dress on top would have produced a slightly more modestly dressed Perry and an entertaining segment that would not have produced this embarrassing controversy.
And the video was described in the New York Times as “suggestive”. I’m always surprised by what is child inappropriate, while others items are child-appropriate (such as the KidzBop re-recordings of popular songs, such as Lady Gaga’s Alejandro).
But my present favorite “child-appropriate” example is Beyonce’s Single Ladies, which despite the fact that “it” is not defined — in a similar way to “it” not being defined in Faith No More’s “Epic”– is a song about … rejecting returned interest in a sexual relationship after a breakup. Yet this song has been recorded by children for KidzBop 18 and was used in the movie and commercials for Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (MPAA rating: PG). And there is also the infamous 8-to-10 year olds gymnastics routine (no, I won’t link to it — but their parents thought it was appropriate).
But I digress from the most important issue — What makes the Muppets appropriate? They have had a wide variety of guest stars over the years, including those with careers that *are* controversial and intended for adults, like Ice-T, Amy Sedaris, Richard Pryor, and Jenny McCarthy. Especially at Jim Henson’ s birthday, it is important to remember that standards for appropriateness in childrens’ programming has changed over time. When classic Sesame Street was put on DVD, there was a warning stating that the classic show wasn’t really for today’s modern child.
Some of my favorite Sesame Street and Muppet Show clips would be considered way more controversial if they were created now — including some of my favorites: “Would you like to buy an O” and Rita Moreno’s Emmy-award version of “Fever” (also sung by Miss Piggy more recently).
But what I am the most shocked by is not a still modestly-covered (by present standards) singer singing her horrible song, but by the Sesame Street True Blood parody, also recently released. But without controversy. There is no reason why *any* preschooler/kindergardener should know anything about this very violent (including sexual violence) show.
And perhaps that is the overall message to kids complaining parents want — We don’t want our kids to know breasts exist on adult women? (I’m assuming most preschoolers have seen breastfeeding!), but parodies of violence and violent imagery is fine? After all, an allusion to Apocalypse Now was used in the halloween special for “Monsters vs. Aliens”.
And that, at least according to me, is an inappropriate use of monsters in a way this Elmo kerfuffle just isn’t.