Sesame Street: Kids and the Lessons of Addiction

Oct 15, 2019 by

Sesame Street has grown up more over the last 50 years than have many of its first-generation viewers. 

A six-year old named Karli has recently joined the Muppet family and last week confided to Elmo that she had been placed in foster care because of her mother’s addiction for which Karli used to blame herself until her afflicted mother assured her that she was innocent and that her mother was suffering from a “grown-up problem.”

Impersonators of people sometimes show more humanity than do flesh-and-blood beings.

Despite the fact that opioid addiction is on a massive scale and has struck  people of all economic and social classes, educational levels, political persuasions, gender orientations, regional and ethnic identifications and indeed soccer moms, many mature “adults” persist in the view that addicts are losers and low-lifes, dope-fiends, freeloaders, moral voids, and predatory dangers to society.

The masses who feel that way are themselves addicted to that fallacy.

They are not intellectually prepared or just don’t care to know the complexities behind the scourge, such as the pharmaceutical and pain-management industries and the prescription-driven proclivities of psychiatrists for whom the opioids are their stock-in-trade and meal-ticket.

Sesame Street has raised the issues without going overboard with an all-out assault on children’s consciousness.  A dose of precocious awareness is essential to preserving their innocence.

Later in the online-only episodes, Karli’s human friend, a 10-year old girl named Salia, whose parents are themselves of victims of addiction, explains the nature and effects of the disease in language that crosses all age and comprehension gaps and opens eyes regardless of whether they’re filled with tears or unknowing wonder. 

The simple message of self-help recovery, empathy and stigma-avoidance , is anything but simplistic.

In the United States, one in eight kids under 11 years old, live with a parent under the tyranny of substance abuse, according to Sesame Workshop. This does not count the parents who were lost to divorce, imprisonment or death.

Sherrie Weston, President of Global Impact and Philanthropy for Sesame Workshop, has also presented segments about homelessness and military families. This programming has over the years subtly erased the largely arbitrary and artificial ground-rules of “age-appropriate” themes. They have broken the molds of convention, modeled social responsibility by means of artistic expression and practiced it in a mainstream entertainment milieu without resorting to preaching or condescension.

Conveying the poignancy of the loss of innocence is essential to its depiction and protection. This is reflected in literature like “Alice and Wonderland” and cinemas such as Wizard of Oz.

Sesame Street recognizes that immersion, or at least exposure to the depths of life is a birthright of the cradle. As the infants grow a bit older, their teachers are still rocking that cradle. In that sense, every New York City public school, regardless of the community in which the building can be found, is located on Sesame Street.

Ron Isaac

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.