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Analysis / Sesame Street

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     Analysing emotions in Sesame Street 
Emotions are a recurring theme in Sesame Street, with songs about them, episodes about them, and sometimes the Word of the Day is about an emotion. If a viewer looks closely, they can pick up that different characters get emotional about different things and express their emotions in different ways, so without further ado, here's an analysis of emotions by character.
  • Elmo: Elmo is three years old. He's happy most of the time and enjoys playing, eating, dancing, drawing, and being tickled. When he's happy he is speaking a lot and quickly, giggling, and running around. When he's sad he slows down his movements, cries, talks about not caring, and seems to slow down his speech (or maybe he just has a different tone of voice, it's hard to tell). His eyes seem to be a bit out-of-place sometimes when he's sad, too, and things that make him sad include death, hurt feelings, and not being taken seriously. When he's angry he shouts, flails his arms about, and has misaligned eyes and messy fur. Things that make him angry include Rocco and being misunderstood. Elmo is scared of loneliness and fire; when he's scared he lowers his voice and cowers down. The misaligned eyes thing can also happen if he's surprised.
  • Zoe: Zoe is three years old. She, too, is mostly happy, and expresses her happiness the same ways as Elmo; she also has similar interests but on top of that she enjoys ballet, rocks, and riding in a toy car called the Zoemobile. She gets sad for the same reasons you or I would get sad, in addition to people not taking rocks seriously; when she's sad she basically just sits there looking forlorn. As for anger, she gets angry when Elmo calls Rocco "just a rock", and, like Elmo, flails her arms about and shouts, but her eyes and fur stay the same. Fear is an interesting one. Zoe doesn't seem to like to admit to being scared and claims it's Rocco who's scared.
  • Big Bird: Big Bird started out as a four-year-old, but was aged up to be five and later, six years old. Like most characters, is happy by default, and sings when he's happy, but he still walks relatively slowly even when very happy, possibly due to his size. When sad, he often does an Aside Glance with his beak half open or speaks with a slightly whiny voice. When very sad, he cries, hangs his head down, and walks even slower than usual. When angry, he tends to shout out nonsense words, as evidenced here. Big Bird's characterization was originally very different; during the first season of Sesame Street, he was portrayed as a dopey adult, and he would become frustrated, bewildered, or sad more easily than the contemporary iteration of the character.The decision to retool Big Bird as a child character was made in order to make him more suitable for the purposes of the show, and while the contemporary big bird has also been known to get emotional, he's also more resilient.
  • Bert: Bert is very emotional, he is happy when he's reading, eating oatmeal, looking at paperclips and bottle caps, agreeing with Ernie, or observing pigeons. When happy he generally seems happy and also does his trademark chuckle. Bert can get angry if he doesn't get his way or disagrees with Ernie. When angry he shouts (a lot), waves his arms, and tends to repeat himself rather than using logic. A strange thing is that Bert doesn't get sad like other characters get sad. When sad, he seems to just fall over. When worried, he'll have the same cowering, ranting response as Telly and Ernie, but, unlike them, never seems to be scared from outlandish imaginings.
  • Ernie: Ernie is most often happy, and when happy he sings, skips, and does his trademark chuckle. When sad, he seems to sob and talk in a generic 'sad' voice. The two main things that get him sad are sad daydreams and loneliness, which he describes in When Bert's Not Here. When Ernie is scared he uses the same tone of voice as when sad but doesn't seem sad. He also seems to go on about what's bothering him in a similar way as Telly and, like Telly, is often scared by scary daydreams. Ernie expresses anger in the same way Bert does but it takes a lot to get him angry.
  • Abby Cadabby: Abby is usually extremely happy and excited. Often, when she sees something fascinating or learns something new she'll throw her head back and giggle, while literally floating on air. When sad, she often seems subdued and talks quietly, but that doesn't usually happen.
  • Telly: Telly is usually happy but is pretty emotional. One way to keep him happy is by providing a triangle, and one way to make him sad is by threatening a triangle (if that seems silly, it's because it is, but Telly thinks it's Serious Business.) Telly just acts like a generic happy monster when he's happy and when he's sad he cries and says, "oh no", which he also says when he's scared. Telly gets scared easily, and when scared he often goes on about what he's scared of in a hurried voice. In "Telly Get Jealous", he describes jealousy and anger the same way: fast heartbeat, "floppy" belly, and shouting.
  • Baby Bear: Like most of the characters, he's usually happy, especially when he's with his best friend Telly, spending time with his family, or eating porridge. He expresses his emotions in pretty much a generic way, except he's a bit of a Large Ham and uses a lot of big words. Although he's generally much more calm than Telly, he can still be a bit of a worrier at times, especially when things change suddenly. Whereas Telly worries about things that often are unlikely to happen, Baby Bear worries about changes that he knows will happen.
  • Snuffy: He's usually calm and happy. Often okay with doing whatever his friends want to do. However, usually the only time he gets angry is when he has the rare argument with Big Bird. Often when things don't go as planned he's quick to get frustrated, hanging his head down, stomping his feet, and saying, "Oh dear" in a sad way.
  • The Adults: The adults are not as easily ruffled as the kids, but they do have emotions, which they often point out to teach kids that it's acceptable to have those emotions, especially the negative ones. They are seen crying (albeit not the gulp-y sobbing that the kids do) when sad, and often do an Aside Glance when annoyed.
  • Oscar: His emotions are complicated. Being happy makes him sad and being angry makes him happy. He is made angry by other people being angry or sad, things being too soppy, things like butterflies and dogs which are generally considered pleasant, other people talking to him, happy songs, other people being happy, Christmas, and being alone. The only thing he admits to liking is garbage.
  • Prairie Dawn: She's six years old, but She's a perfectionist: Happy when she gets her way and sad when she doesn't. When Prairie is sad she often holds her head, moans and complains.
  • Rosita: She's a very happy and energetic monster. She's also very affectionate, often enthusiastically hugging and kissing her friends. Sometimes she can get a little too enthusiastic and accidentally ends up hurting her friends, which she is always very remorseful about, as seen in the episode "Don't Get Pushy". She doesn't get frustrated easily, often being the first to think up a solution to problems. However, sometimes when she gets very angry, she wildly gesticulates, and rants very loudly in Spanish. When she's embarrassed or overwhelmed she'll often shrink and run away without explanation.
  • Guy Smiley: He is a Large Ham. When something happy happens he acts REALLY happy, when something sad happens he acts distraught, when something annoying happens he hops up and down in rage, and when something scary happens he has an overly frightened response.
  • Mr. Johnson: He gets happy when he gets what he wants, but his baseline emotion is 'annoyed'. He tends to moan and shout a lot, as well as being impatient.
  • Ingrid and Humphrey: Their happiness is often correlated to Natasha's state of being. If Natasha's happy, they're happy, if Natasha's sad (or if they miss Natasha), they're sad. They tend to blow kisses and act happy, yet a bit sappy, when happy. When they are sad they generally cry together and, if it's Natasha-related, say, "where did we go wrong?". They are hardly ever angry or scared, but Humphrey does mention that he expresses fear the same way Natasha does.
  • Natasha: Natasha is between six and nine months old, and she's pretty easy to read. When she's happy she shakes her shoe and goes, "cuckoo". When she's sad she cries, when she's angry she cries and makes a "brrrrb" noise (she's angry when she's not with her doll), and when she's scared she says, "yelp!" and covers her eyes. Natasha is prone to Blowing a Raspberry both when she's happy and when she's unhappy, and only her parents can tell the difference between her happy raspberries and her sad raspberries.
  • Stinky: He gets sad easily and when sad, he moans, but says he doesn't want to be a burden. To keep him happy, give him basic 'plant' things like water and sun.
  • Alice: Alice is about two years old. When she's happy, she goes "la la la" and is most often happy. However, she can get angry when she doesn't get her way and when she's angry she stomps her feet and says "no". Alice mainly gets sad from loneliness and when she's sad she stares at the wall. To cheer her up, sing. note 
  • Julia: Julia is four and a half years old, but behaves somewhat differently from a child of her age due to Autism. She is sensitive to loud noises and heat (the former being due to having acute hearing). She likes coloring, singing, and quiet spaces. When she's nervous, she hides away. When she's excited, she flaps her arms.

In a 2004 interview, Sonia Manzano spoke of it being easier explore emotions using some characters over other others due to certain characters being more "complex" than others, citing this as a major difference between Big Bird and Elmo. Summarily, the greater the age of a child character, the more complex he is and the easier it is to employ him to explore more complex typical human emotions.

     Analysing species in Sesame Street 
Sesame Street is full of different species, many who you'd never meet in real life. Here is a list of all different species and groups that may involve several species.

  • Humans: Just normal humans, like you and me.
  • Normal animals: Can be portrayed by a real animal (like Tiny Tim the cat) or by a puppet (like Little Murray Sparkles), but what makes these animals different from the other animals is that they never do anything humanlike (they don't talk, they don't do things that would require hands, etc) and they belong to a real-life taxonomic group.
  • Characters who are Ambiguously Human: These are either puppets or animated, sometimes the puppet ones are referred to as "Muppets", or, if they're background characters, "Anything Muppets". These characters are humanoid, but they might go naked (like Nedd), be the wrong color, be shorter than a live-action human, be sort of the wrong shape (like Bert), or a combination. It is unknown what species these are, but they're clearly not monsters or Grouches as they don't have fur.
  • Fictional animals: Like the Twiddlebugs and the Snuffleupagi. These are animals that exist only in the Sesame Street universe and can fall anywhere on the Sliding Scale of Anthropomorphism.
  • Animals with human characteristics: Most of these ones talk, a few might be Civilized Animal's, but hardly any have no animalistic traits, although some, like the Bear family, come close to having none. These usually educate the viewers about their species or sing about their species. Examples include Gladys, Davey, and Joey. These animals are usually animated or played by puppets.
  • Animate Inanimate Object's: Common are food (which usually has a strange tendency to want to be eaten), letters (which apparently start off as lowercase letters and grow into capitals), and numbers but any object can be anthropomorphized.
  • Mythical creatures: Creatures that are fictional but exist outside of the Sesame Street universe. Usually animated or puppets. The fairies are an example.
  • Monsters: Recognizable because they're furry, usually played by puppets (although a few are animated), lack the idiosyncracies of Grouches, and generally don't wear clothes (although a few do). As revealed in the "baby horns" episode, some have horns and some don't. The ones that do will grow them around nine months of age, but lose them on the same day, getting their permanent horns in later childhood. Monsters can speak human languages but also speak a gibberish language that only other monsters tend to understand. Unlike humans, baby monsters start babbling when they're first born, as evidenced by the song "We've Got a Brand New Baby". The phrase "wubba wubba wubba" also seems culturally significant to monsters, but its meaning is unknown. Some, such as Cookie Monster, are more voracious than humans and can eat things humans cannot. They can catch the same diseases as humans but some diseases, such as "cookie flu" and "triangle-sneeze-itis", can only affect monsters. Monsters generally have the surname "Monster", though some don't (for example, Elmo's aunt Funella has the surname "Furchester"). Culturally, humans and monsters are very similar.
  • Grouches: Look very similar to Monsters, but don't have their own language and are different culturally. Many live in trash cans and the majority are both cranky and slobby. Occasionally, you'll find a Grouch who's neat or positive, but never both. They often refuse to say things like "please" and tend to insult, however, they're not usually evil. They tend to dislike things generally thought of as pleasant, such as friendship and butterflies, but some animals (like cats) are a strange exception; Oscar (who's quite a traditional Grouch) keeps a cat along with several other pets. Grouches also have a paradoxical enjoyment of being annoyed. Like monsters, there are some diseases that only affect them, usually these diseases change their personalities. Their infants tend to cry even when not unhappy.