View at Your Own Per(ry)il

I wasn’t going to bother commenting on the Sesame Street/Katy Perry controversy, but I found a few interesting things to comment on beyond the actual event itself.

Pop singer Katy Perry filmed a spot for Sesame Street (that never aired on the show, only on YouTube) that was later removed due to parental complaints.  
Be warned that this link is to a pop-culture site that some people might consider inappropriate for a workplace environment.  I link to it because it has a response from Sesame Street that I think is rather interesting.
In a nut shell, Katy Perry bops around in a clip with Elmo to a slightly revised version of a popular song of hers from a few months back.  She’s dressed in a rather skimpy top.  Given that much pop fascination with Perry stems from her endowments, this isn’t surprising.  Sesame Street’s apparent explanation is a little surprising.
“Sesame Street has always been written on two levels, for the child and adult. We use parodies and celebrity segments to interest adults in the show because we know that a child learns best when co-viewing with a parent or care-giver. We also value our viewer’s opinions and particularly those of parents. In light of the feedback we’ve received on the Katy Perry music video which was released on You Tube only, we have decided we will not air the segment on the television broadcast of Sesame Street, which is aimed at preschoolers.”

I trust that this is a legitimate quote, though I haven’t been able to confirm the legitimacy.  However this quote seems to back up the general tone of the above quote.  
In any event, what I find interesting is that Sesame Street is defending it’s actions as an appeal to adults.  I have no problem with the overall goal.  Sesame Street has incorporated celebrity visits for years, and they’re usually interesting or at least a break to the basic format of the show.  I think that it’s a great tactic for keeping parents engaged.  My problem isn’t with the idea.
My problem is with the apparent assumption that the only reason Perry would be interesting even to the parents is if she wears an outfit that is revealing.  I can understand at a certain level – I personally find her voice extremely grating and wonder if she would have enjoyed the success she has if she looked differently or was unwilling to exploit her physical appearance.  Would I have enjoyed James Taylor’s guest spot more if he had been wearing a revealing outfit?  Deciding to outfit Perry (or allow her to outfit herself) in an outfit that is definitely out of keeping with the show’s normal costuming standards seems to say a couple of things.
It says that parents are mainly interested in her for her sex appeal.  Again, if you’ve heard her sing, this may be true.  But I would be a tad offended as a parent.  It also says that Perry really is mostly appealing for her body.  Perhaps Perry is just fine with this assessment, but I would think she’d be a little offended.  
I think some of the comments on the first article are also telling.  The person who writes that the outfit is no less revealing than the fashions of older children or cheerleaders or music videos is interesting.  She’s right, of course.  And given our culture’s predilection with sexualizing children at younger and younger ages, this isn’t so much surprising as it is disturbing.  My five year-old daughter shouldn’t be influenced in her fashion choices or her self-image by the fashions (and issues) that a 15-year old deals with.
Yes, there are more revealing fashions out there, and in many circles Ms. Perry’s outfit would be considered conservative.  However I don’t allow my daughter (or sons) to watch those shows or travel in those circles.  Once again, people don’t seem willing to consider context, and instead focus solely on the amount of skin revealed.  Do the ends justify the means?  At a beach, you expect to see skin.  On Sesame Street, you don’t.  But should we – if that’s all that will convince some parents to spend a few minutes with their child in front of the television?  I don’t think so.  But apparently some people do.

One Response to “View at Your Own Per(ry)il”

  1. Lisa Denninger Says:

    Spot-on, Pastor Paul!

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