Over the past couple of weeks, my 19-month-old and I have watched a lot of Sesame Street. It keeps her calm and she learns things, and I can spend some time with her going completely brain dead in front of the TV, one of my all time favorite hobbies. However, I noticed a few trends with the show – disturbing ones – and I feel compelled to share one with you today: I am convinced Ernie is a sociopath.
You might think that a little harsh and extremely unwarranted. I mean, he’s always smiling and interacting with Bert and taking a bath in front of a camera for children to watch. That’s absolutely harmless, right?
Consider this: his best friend is a rubber ducky. Think about that. He is incapable of friendship with normal puppets, so he interacts with an inanimate bath toy. All day long, he plays with that rubber ducky. He sings songs about it. He dances with it. That’s not right. But, when you realize Ernie is a sociopath, the friendship makes sense. He and his rubber ducky have so much in common. They are both cold and without feelings.
“But Bert is his friend!” some of you are wondering, maybe out loud, as you read this. But I beg to differ. Watch the segments where they interact. Several of them have the same set-up: Bert wants to be left alone to read or something. Ernie comes in and completely shuts that down with songs and a cadre of other creatures who will bother Bert until he has no choice but to give in to whatever Ernie’s demand is. In one segment, Ernie took a surprisingly high-powered fan and blew Bert’s book clear across the room. All Bert could do was go outside and play baseball with Ernie.
If Ernie cannot feel true joy, then no one, not even his roommate can.
Perhaps Ernie, as one of the few adult puppets on the show, grew up without a guiding force like “Sesame Street.” I mean, he is an adult, right? He lives with another bachelor, no parents and they seem to be self-sufficient. Even Elmo and Cookie Monster have fathers that have appeared on the show.
People might argue that if anyone is the sociopath, it’s Bert. He’s quiet, usually grumpy and very matter-of-fact about things. But, would you be a light, airy person if you had Ernie lurking around every corner? Bert represents adulthood as it should be. He is crushed under the weight of responsibility, life and the real world, and, in the moments that he tries to relax, here comes Ernie, who apparently wasn’t loved enough as a child, who wants to play all the time and refuses to let Bert have a moment of peace.
Ernie doesn’t seem to have had a childhood of note. No mentioned parents, the symbol of his childhood (the cold, lifeless rubber ducky) and the world having actual demands of him have caused him to close off to the outside world.
And my kid loves watching it. I’m terrified because eventually Bert is going to say “No, I don’t want to play” one too many times and Big Bird will find Bert’s limbs have become a part of his nest.