Sesame Street has long been known for its ability to teach kids about tough topics in a gentle, digestible way. Its latest episode, however, which is by far its most controversial yet, left viewers asking themselves: Did the show go too far when it taught kids about feminine hygiene by having Grover die of toxic shock syndrome?
Judging by the backlash, Sesame Street might have crossed a few lines with this one.
Parents around the country were up in arms last week when PBS aired a new episode of Sesame Street in which a woozy Grover sang a song called “I Feel Funny (And Not In A Good Way),” and then collapsed in a seizure in front of Mr. Hooper’s store on Sesame Street. After Elmo and Big Bird took turns giving Grover piggyback rides down the street to the hospital, an emergency room doctor informed them that Grover had left a tampon in for too long and was now experiencing the final stages of a bacterial infection called toxic shock syndrome.
Yikes. Toxic shock syndrome is definitely a phenomenon people need to be aware of, but this may have been a little too intense of a storyline for a kids’ show.
The controversial episode was packed full of scenes apparently intended to teach the importance of hygiene, including one in which Elmo and Big Bird both fell to the floor in grief when Grover’s doctor explained that the shock Grover was experiencing wasn’t a “shock” that kids might be familiar with, like a surprise, but instead a sudden drop in blood flow that would ultimately be fatal. Soon after, the Count led viewers in a song about the Number Of The Day: 72, representing each of the hours Grover had left the tampon in for.
The Sesame Street gang even attended Grover’s funeral during the episode, in which Cookie Monster gave a eulogy followed by an impassioned speech about the dangers of using super-absorbent tampons, all through racking sobs.
“I want my daughter to learn about life, but I think age 3 is too soon to watch a Muppet insert and remove a tampon and also learn about renal failure and death, all in the space of half an hour,” said Laurie Butler, one of the concerned mothers who wrote in to PBS after the episode aired. “I definitely want my daughter to learn about feminine hygiene, but I’d much rather her hear that from me than from Kermit the Frog dressed as a coroner waving his arms over Grover’s dead body.”
Well, unfortunately, we have to agree with Laurie here—Sesame Street is an amazing show, but this episode definitely took it too far. Let’s hope the writers find a smarter, more appropriate way to use Grover next time, assuming they bring him back to life.