Deep in the Hundred Acre Wood, where Christopher Robin…copes with mental illness? As in…our favorite childhood teddy bear and all his fantastical friends are all just nut cases? Dr. Sarah Shea and her colleagues at the IWK Health Center in Nova Scotia would like us to think so; they are to blame for ruining our fond perceptions of Pooh Bear, his many adventures, and, of course, the unbreakable bond he has with his owner, Christopher Robin. According to their study, each character in the series represents a different disease—Piglet expresses an anxiety disorder, Eeyore is depressed, Christopher Robin might have an identity crisis…and, of course, Winnie the Pooh. Poor Pooh Bear suffers from ADHD, OCD, “comorbid cognitive impairment,” has an obsessive fixation on honey, and possibly microcephaly. In fact, Dr. Shea and her colleagues even go so far as to say that his “obsessive fixation on honey” contributes to severe obesity—completely dismissing the fact that he is, in fact, a teddy bear, and perhaps, the cotton stuffing, a vital part to his teddy bear nature, could also contribute to his “obesity.” What have Dr. Shea and her colleagues done to some of our favorite childhood animals? As a child, I would stand in front of the television for hours just watching this show, so enthralled by what I saw that I could literally sit there and quote the show word for word, only to have this fantastic world shattered in adulthood by their study. But this unwaveringly popular children’s show is not the only program under scrutiny.
Who remembers Teletubbies? Though I’m still unsure of its purpose, this show was also a childhood favorite. Reverend Jerry Falwell had the audacity to call this show out for its purple character Tinky-Winky being gay. Just to be clear, the teletubbies are baby aliens with televisions on their stomachs that live in a grass dome in a field of flowers under a shining baby and spend their days eating and babbling amongst themselves. But Tinky Winky can be seen on several occasions carrying a “hand-bag,” which somehow makes him gay, even though there are plenty of straight males nowadays that carry bags of their own. Additionally, apparently, purple is the color of gay pride, and the triangle, the shape on his head, is a symbol of gay pride. The Reverend went to so much trouble as to publish his opinions. But what is the point? I watched the somewhat trippy show all the time as a child. Never once did it occur to me that this creature was “gay,” mostly because I was so young that the concept was foreign to me. But even so, why would it matter? The fact that someone would suggest that there are sexual implications in a show promoted to pre-school aged children calls into question what thoughts could possibly be going through the Reverend’s mind, and what convoluted (and somewhat grotesque) connections he is making. The children don’t even understand the concept of “gay.” These adults’ exposure to a longer life and mature content have clouded their judgment as to what may or may not be suggestive in a children’s show. But this is not the last time a character’s actions have been called to question.
Since the 1980s, Sesame Street’s own Bert and Ernie, two muppet roommates, have been under scrutiny for their sexual orientation. Being that they live in the same house and share a room and depict grown adults, many question whether or not the two really portray a gay couple. In their segment of the show, they are seen doing things together like cooking, watering plants or sewing. Such acts have raised questions of their sexual orientation, because puppets controlled by people with written scripts on a children’s educational show apparently have sexual preferences. It is absurd to think that Bert and Ernie could depict a gay couple because of actions stated above. Not only is that horrible stereotyping of the gay community and ignorant, but it is completely oblivious to the intended purpose of the segments. Sesame Street is a show that is supposed to be both fun and educational. While most of the show covers topics such as words and letters, Bert and Ernie address domestic chores and how to do them. The purpose of having them performing these acts is to encourage children to want to complete the chores themselves and introduce an element of fun to it. Bert and Ernie happen to be the only segment that mainly takes place in a normal household; therefore, introducing common domestic duties would occur in this segment. The fact that these characters are being called gay for performing such chores also demonstrates a harsh male stereotype that straight men do not perform such duties and is, therefore, enforcing sexist traditional gender roles.
For decades, there has been so much discussion about and objection to children’s programming. Television shows have been under scrutiny for intentions that never existed as a result of conspiracies coined by adults. Children’s programs are, generally speaking, pretty mindless. Their intentions are to stimulate and educate the young children watching them; young kids wouldn’t think of the outlandish ideas these adults come up with about the television shows. As a child, not once did I ever question the sexual orientation of a character or their mental stability. In fact, had it not be pointed out to me I would have never even picked up on all these so called “innuendos” written into these simple television shows. As a young child I was just happy to be able to watch a show that I found funny and entertaining. Creating such stirs over television shows is simply uncalled for, and adults who go to such trouble to bring up controversy should leave the shows to their intended mindlessness, the kind of mindlessness possessed by their own children watching the programs.