The Monsters of the Zeitgeist

Posted 11/06/2010 by Amy Kristen in Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

What comprises the zeitgeist? Everything that is Art Star: the music, the movies, the words, the dance, the clothes, and the art that combine to form the human spirit. It is difficult to keep up with the flow of the now, especially when we live in a society full of individuals seeking to daily redefine themselves. The zeitgeist is the intangible energy of an era that is made only somewhat clearer with the passage of time and the aid of hindsight.

To define the zeitgeist, we must ask the following questions:
What do we share? What makes us think? What is cool? What makes us laugh? What makes us cry? What gives us a sense of belonging to society?

Sesame Street has always maintained a somewhat remarkable grasp on the pulse of the American population. I watched the children’s show faithfully when I was a youngster in the late 1980s. Sometimes I’ll still get an odd, unfamiliar tune stuck in my head that I will later come to recognize as an original song from the show.

My all-time favorite Muppet music videos included “The Word is No,” “Monster in the Mirror,” and “New Way to Walk.” Ah, the memories… And while the celebrity cameos went right over my head back when walking was considered a personal accomplishment, these videos were full of them. “A New Way to Walk” featured Maya Angelou, Garth Brooks, John Goodman, Kevin Kline, Cheech Marin, Rosie O'Donnell, and Marisa Tomei, among others. I mostly just liked the pigs with their cute 80s hairdos. And “Monster in the Mirror” features The Simpsons. You really can’t get any more zeitgeist-y than that.

I only vaguely remember some of the famous folks’ appearances on the show, but my mother remembers them all. She loved Sesame Street as much as (or perhaps more than) I did, because the show has a layer of depth and brilliance that only adults can fully comprehend as they recognize poignant features of their own lives being echoed back to them through the mouths of bright yellow/green/pink/etc. stuffed creatures.

Now in its 41st season (it premiered on November 10, 1969, making it one of the longest-running TV shows of all time), Sesame Street is on a roll; not only is it ruling the children’s entertainment empire, but the ingenious, hardworking writers have managed to make the show a master of conquering the zeitgeist. This season’s guests will include Colin Farrell, Jason Bateman, Julie Bowen, Chris O'Donnell, Wanda Sykes, and Kara DioGuardi. Katy Perry was also slated to appear, with a music video based her hit song “Hot N Cold” (Can you guess what the theme of the video was? Hint: Elmo loves opposites), but of course she couldn’t keep her impressive chest size in check. Her video was promptly banned from airing by furious, child-innocence-protecting parents, but not until after the video went viral. When Sesame Street is being featured on, you know it’s on to something.

None of the show’s primary viewers will care about these random guest appearances, but their mothers will get a nice chuckle when they see the Oprah Winfrey-voiced spoof about “The O Show.” All other active zeitgeist participants can appreciate Grover’s take on the recent series of hilarious Old Spice ads (“Smell Like a Monster”), the Muppet-filled True Blood spoof (the Stephen Moyer puppet sure does need his “True Mud”), as well as Sesame Street’s take on The Closer (the puppets will explain how a case is closed… literally).

It’s remarkable that in an age when the Internet is been overrun by YouTube videos in much the same way that the bubonic plague conquered 1340s Europe, a show about fuzzy stuffed monsters living on a particularly sunny and friendly street aimed at entertaining the least intelligent viewer demographic still manages to make its mark, participating in the zeitgeist while simultaneously winking at it. Sesame Street is constantly reminding us “adults” how childlike we still really are by poking fun at what we claim to be our defining cultural icons.

(Today’s blog post brought to you by the letter A, the letter K, and the number 1.)

--Amy Kristen

4 comment(s) to... “The Monsters of the Zeitgeist”


Anonymous said...

Um...yes this is awesome.

Dumbstu said...

Love you Amy!

-Your secret admirer

Anonymous said...

More from Amy please!

Catherine said...

Amy you are too great!

Free Blog Counter