Last night I was reading The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, there is a chapter about Sesame Street that I found was appalling enough to deserve a blog entry.
Sesame Street was first broadcasted in 1969, with a plot cunningly calculated by pedagogics directed to preschoolers. It was a mash-up of educational and commercial television. It was structured to keep the children’s’ attention long enough to educate and influence them. Gladwell (2000:100) states that “it is the formal features of television – violence, bright lights, loud and funny noises, quick editing cuts, zooming in and out, exaggerated action, and all the other things we associate with commercial TV – that hold our intention. In other words we don’t have to understand what we’re looking at to keep watching.” This is the way Sesame Street was constructed until 1998, more like a magazine that a book; without any clear narrative, just a number of short sketches.
Sesame Street won 118 Emmy awards, was broadcasted in 130 countries and has been running for 42 years and counting.
Say what you want about influencing children, and educating all of us after guidelines set by the state with no respect for individuality (after all it’s a bit like an institution preaching to students to think for themselves but marking them down if they don’t quote other people.) but I loved Sesame Street as a kid and always prefered Count to Bram Stroker’s Dracula.
Gladwell, Malcolm., 2000, The Tipping Point, Little Brown, UK.