“Sesame Street’s” producers yanked pop songstress Katy Perry’s upcoming appearance on the iconic PBS children’s show after parents complained about her low-cut dress. They had seen a preview of her duet with Elmo on YouTube, and were scandalized.
The complaint, to put it mildly had no merit. Pre-schoolers aren’t thinking about sex, and unless the complaining parents keep their kids away from the beach and swimming pools, not mention any prime-time TV whatsoever, Katy was showing nothing they hadn’t seen before, and many times. So isn’t Sesame Street’s capitulation to misplaced and brain-dead Puritanism—after all, Annette and Doreen on the old “Mickey Mouse Club” were a lot sexier in their T-shirts (I am told) than Katie in her dress—simply encouraging more silly censorship and bullying by allowing prissy minorities to prevail? Yes. But the Second Niggardly Principle applies here. This decrees:
“When an individual or group can accomplish its legitimate objectives without engaging in speech or conduct that will offend individuals whose basis for the supposed offense is emotional, mistaken or ignorant, but is not malicious and is based on well-established impulses of human nature, it is unethical to intentionally engage in such speech or conduct.”
As fun as it might be, the Katy Perry segment is not essential to Sesame Street’s mission, which is educating and socializing pre-schoolers. Insisting on offending the parents of some of these children to stand for principles of artistic freedom, or free speech, or not caving to the whims of Silly People, cannot be justified. Sesame Street can accomplish its goals without Katy Perry’s cleavage, so the ethical response is to end the “offense,” as inoffensive as it might be.
“Ground Zero Mosque” organizers, take note.
In cases like this, Elmo knows best.