Following the FDA’s authorization for 5 to 11-year-old children to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine, Sesame Street deployed two of its most popular characters to spread the message.
On Saturday, Sesame Street collaborated with CNN for The ABCs of Covid Vaccines, a half-hour town hall aimed to answer children’s questions about the Covid-19 vaccine. The official Twitter accounts for Big Bird and Elmo also tweeted a pro-vaccination message, sparking a predictable culture war on Twitter.
As commentators quickly pointed out, this isn’t the first time that Sesame Street has offered Covid advice, or even urged children to get vaccinated; the educational puppet show boasts a long history of involvement in public health campaigns.
Texas senator and serial tweeter Ted Cruz (who is vaccinated), led conservatives in the collective rage against what he labelled “government propaganda” (it should be noted that Sesame Street receives only a tiny amount of funding through government grants, and is largely funded by royalties, licensing deals and donations).
Twitter users were quick to poke fun at the melodramatic backlash, with many gleefully screenshotting angry Tweets, collecting them like baseball cards.
Of course, all of that anger was all for nothing, as the typical Sesame Street viewer is still in preschool, and thus, incredibly unlikely to be found scrolling through Twitter, let alone reading sentences, so this was very much an adults-only PR stunt.
Sesame Street’s covid controversy echoes the ridiculous culture war fought over the supposed cancellation of Dr. Seuss (which nobody talks about anymore because his popular works never actually went away, and likely, never will).
Hence, a few Twitter users observed that the ritualistic backlash against children’s media might just be a cause for concern.
Other users, resigned to the fact that the day’s online discourse was laser-focused on dissecting the political leanings of puppets, embraced the absurdity of the situation.
But this isn’t the first time that the muppets of Sesame Street have found themselves targeted by conservative culture warriors – Tucker Carlson was famously infuriated by Elmo’s attempt to contextualize the BLM movement, and went on an unhinged rant against the fuzzy red puppet.
Who’d have thought that Sesame Street could provoke a stronger reaction in politicians and political commentators than it does toddlers?