Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Alphabet of Everything that is Wrong with Cookie Monster

Part 1: A is for Apartheid

     We all know and love Cookie Monster for his multitudinous appearances on PBS's popular Sesame Street series, but how well do we know him really? In most cases, not very well.

     Cookie Monster was born in a small boarding house on Anise Street, where he lived with Cake Monster (his paternal grandmother) and an assortment of other blue Monsters, as well as one or two odd humans who had had a run of bad luck. His mother died of internal hand cancer which was most probably the result of her terrible, terrible alphabet addiction. Cookie Monster was very young when she died, and she was never really a part of his life. His father was shot by muggers when Cookie Monster was twelve.

    Anise Street was the name of a notorious red Monster neighborhood. Cookie Monster was frequently accosted, teased, bullied, or beaten by some of the meaner red Monsters, but even the nicest of them just sneered at Blues.

   Cookie Monster went through a rough patch during his teen years. He joined a gang--the Anise Street Felties--who introduced him to a life-rending new experience: sugar. He rode a wave of sugar highs through to his early twenties when he suffered his first heart attack. The shock of it--a heart attack at twenty-three--brought him to his senses. He quit the gang (at this point, he was the oldest living member) and swore off of sugar for good. "Just cookies now," as he has been so famously quoted, "to take the edge off. I don't even swallow them any more."

   Eventually, Cookie Monster was discovered by an agent for PBS, who had just taken on Sesame Street into its programming lineup. He had stable work for the first time in his life, even if it was a humiliating position on a human-oriented program with a strong bias against Monster dignity. They played up his cookie problem as an identifying feature as well as continuing their then-present status quo of monster appearance exploitation; they look funny to humans. They can't help it.

  With his position on the show, he made some friends--Grover, Herry--a few of the other older, similarly downtrodden monsters--but his rocky past and blue fur continued to make things hard for him. Still, he had a regular income and could move away from the slums of Anise Street and start anew, away from the bad memories and apartheid of his birth neighborhood.

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