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9/14/11

The Elmo Trance

My daughter is coming up on 2 years old, which basically means that few, if any, things in this world can get her to sit still and pay attention for more than 5 seconds. Every day is a whirlwind of short-lived activities and sporadic, pinball-like movement that would dizzy any adult trying to keep up.

However, there is one special creature that can magically hold her attention for an extended period of time..

Elmo.

Yep, that spastic, constantly cackling red pile of yarn that nearly all parents grow to love and hate simultaneously. I don't know what it is about this particular Muppet that sends my daughter into a near comatose state every time he's squealing and whining on the television.

I grew up a Sesame Street kid. But 20ish years ago, Elmo wasn't this childrens' mega-celebrity like he is now. If anything, Big Bird was the hot shot back in the 80's, what with movies like Follow That Bird and Big Bird in Japan ( To this day, I still remember the "Ohio means 'Good Morning', that's my favorite one! 1-2-3 is Iche, Nee, San!" song). Sometimes I wonder if Big Bird is pissed that this little ADHD-riddled, red lunatic stormed in and stole his thunder. But in the end, I guess it's the viewers that choose who becomes a star, like some kind of bizarre kids American Idol with puppets and slightly more annoying voices (except Adam Lambert, he wins that competition by miles).

But I digress with my Sesame Street-reality show analogies. The point here is that I am floored by the fact that Elmo can keep my daughter's undivided, complete attention for such a long time. Right now her favorite thing to watch is an Elmo's World DVD that is around 40 minutes long, and she sits still for the WHOLE THING. 40 minutes! To you non-parents out there, that might seem like something to scoff at, but to me, 40 minutes of my child sitting still is equivalent to the heavens opening up and raining down beer and $100 bills (okay, maybe not quite, but pretty close). And let's face it, it's not like this is groundbreaking material; the entire show focuses on Elmo finding out about hats, jackets and shoes. But as I've watched this DVD a few times, I realize what the appeal is for children. Elmo's World is like one giant acid trip.

The Elmo Trance in full effect.

Seriously though, think about it. He lives in a house created with crayons that has living doors and drapery. His best friend is a goldfish named Dorothy whose thoughts he can see. A strange homeless drunk named Mr. Noodle lives in the alley right outside his window, and is seen as a source of advice and entertainment. Inanimate objects regularly come to life and hold conversations with Elmo. And at the end of the day, Elmo sings a song to the same tune, repeating the same word over..and over..and OVER. And this is all done as Elmo runs around laughing maniacally and referring to himself in the third person.

It's this simple: my daughter gets stuck in a catatonic trance induced by the hallucinogenic world of Elmo and his friends.  Watching Elmo is like dropping acid or eating mushrooms for toddlers. They get transported into a confusing, over-stimulating world of abnormal characters and imagery where all they can do is try their best to focus for an hour and figure out what the hell is going on. And if they break that focus, who knows what could happen. All they can do is grip the sides of their high chair, car seat, couch, etc. and hang on for dear, furry life.

While there are times when Elmo makes me want to tear my own ears off (another hallucinogenic effect?), I have to appreciate that fact that he can help reign in my daughter's attention for longer than 2 minutes. Enjoy your virtual Muppet-led acid trip, Ava; it better be the only kind you ever have!

7 comments:

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Very good blog, keep up the good work, thank you!

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