The Elmo Around Us

Everyone likes Sesame Street and even critics of television give Sesame Street support.   Like many of you, I grew up watching Sesame Street, however, I remember the traditional characters of Oscar the Grouch, Big Bird, and Snuffleupagus, making a bigger impression on me than Elmo.  My first real Elmo memory is from college, when I got the Special Edition Tickle Me Elmo as an audience gift on the Rosie O’Donnell Show.  At that time though, Elmo symbolized the chance of winning $200,000, rather than educational children’s television.

I have allowed N to watch Sesame Street multiple times, but it has yet to capture his interest.  Whenever on TV, he points at Big Bird and shouts “banana,” obviously leading me to believe he wasn’t really following this show.  With minimal exposure to Elmo, you can imagine my surprise when at Barnes and Noble he pointed to a stuffed version and shouted, “Elmooooo,” in that classic falsetto preschooler tone.  How did he already have character recognition for something to which he had less than 20 minutes of cumulative television exposure?

Elmo is everywhere, that’s how.  Exhibit A: Elmo is on the fruit pouches he eats on a daily basis.

Earth’s Best

Exhibit B: Elmo appears on so many articles of clothing that in any given week at least one classmate is wearing Elmo paraphernalia.

Elmo t-shirt at Target
Stride Rite Elmo shoes

Exhibit C:  Elmo loves to party.  He shows up in the party décor and cupcakes at 75%* of birthday parties for kids under the age of 3 (*this is a fabricated statistic, but I’ve been to enough baby parties to make a pretty good guess).

Courtesy of The Cupcake Blog

Exhibit D:  Elmo is a party pooper.  As I was working on writing this piece, I was doing a diaper change and N pointed to his Pamper shouting “Elmo” and lo and behold that little red rascal is on our diapers too.  I hadn’t previously realized that I wrapped my toddler in Elmo every day.


And yes, sometimes my support of Elmo is more volitional.  When an Elmo character arrived at a party, I rushed to hand over my baby to this costumed stranger for the sake of a good photograph.


There are worse characters on television for N to recognize and enjoy, so I’m not discouraging his interest in Elmo.  It makes me more aware though of the influence of television characters on children and their presence in children’s lives beyond television.

 I am amazed that despite the recent negative Kevin Clash publicity, Elmo’s image is going strong in the kiddie product market.  I imagine I’ll continue to run into him at school, the grocery store, and parties for years to come.  Maybe the next time I see him, I’ll ask who does his marketing, because that’s someone who deserves some recognition!

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  1. This really drives home how the environment our children live in and the world around us molds our children into who they become and what they believe. Hard as we may try to control what they see and hear, we are defenseless against marketing.

  2. Children don’t know the man behind Elmo, they only know and love the cute fuzzy little red guy they see on TV and we buy the products with his image on them. It follows through into adulthood, we like an athlete or movie star so we buy what he endorses. John Stamos is Greek, he endorses Greek yogurt, so we buy Greek yogurt.
    Actors are paid for what they are told to say, not what they know and we buy the products. Elmo, a puppet, makes the little ones laugh so we buy those products though most of us don’t have a clue what he talks about on Sesame Street.
    The world around us has gotten so much smaller and changed so much during the last 50 years, it’s frightening. We need to look back and hold on to the values we learned as children and pass those on. We definately need to have close family bonds, and spend quality time with our children.

  3. Like you, I don’t really remember Elmo being a favorite character when I was growing up. I’m not sure of the appeal, but again, there are worse characters to recognize. Found you through Bloggy Moms.

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