The monster in Elmo

A couple weeks before the creepy news broke that Kevin Clash, the voice of Elmo, was accused of having a sexual relationship with a sixteen year old, I received this email from my daughter’s after school program:

 A man dressed in an Elmo costume was seen in Rossi Playground on Saturday attempting to approach and hug neighborhood children. In addition to approaching children, he yelled obscenities and derogatory remarks. This man was also spotted at parks in New York City.

My first thought was: Elmo, for goodness sake. Holy shit. What is the world coming to?

But my second thought was this. The disturbing story attests to a thesis of my blog, Reel Girl, that is often disputed or questioned: “Lovable” characters created to appeal to children can also be dangerously manipulative of those children. In many cases, that’s why they were created, right? To sell products or push an agenda. Just because a character has oversized pupils doesn’t mean he’s good for kids. Maybe that sounds paranoid or trivial, but children are malleable and vulnerable. Parents should be aware of who they let in their home, even under the badge of PBS (which has a cast of characters just as male dominated as Disney.) G-rated movies can be more sexist, racist, or classist than R movies. That’s why parents should trust their own instincts, be aware, and make careful, informed decisions. There’s a potential monster side to every Elmo

Update: From the NYT

Andreozzi & Associates, a law firm that said it represented the anonymous accuser, said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon that “he wants it to be known that his sexual relationship with Mr. Clash was an adult consensual relationship.” The statement added, “He will have no further comment on the matter”…“We are pleased that this matter has been brought to a close, and we are happy that Kevin can move on from this unfortunate episode,” said Sesame Workshop, the organization that produces “Sesame Street.”

The organization did not say when — or even whether — Mr. Clash would return to work at “Sesame Street.” On Sunday, he took a leave of absence when it became clear that TMZ was going to publish an article about the accusation of inappropriate and possibly illegal conduct.

Update: Jezebel reports: “Well, turns out our collective sigh of relief was short-lived. Though puppeteer Kevin Clash’s first accuser recanted his claims one week ago, Clash officially resigned from Sesame Street today. Though it’s not mentioned in Clash’s official resignation, his departure coincides with new allegations from a second accuser, who claims Clash began a sexual relationship with him when the accuser was just 15.”

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