Katy Perry’s Cleavage and Sesame Street Ethics

“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.

14 thoughts on “Katy Perry’s Cleavage and Sesame Street Ethics

  1. Much as I hate to admit it, I agree with Bill here, if he’s taking issue with your point. (With Bill, it’s often hard to tell exactly what he’s saying.) Sesame Street should have ignored these parents, or if they responded at all, should have told them to go Elmo themselves. They have a hard enough time putting up a consistently educational, entertaining show week after week without having to look over their shoulders for nutcases in the mailbox.

    If you got 100 complaints about your own post from parents who use Ethics Alarms to instruct their children, and object to your link to a picture of Katy’s Tinkerbell cleavage, would you pull it? Would 10 do? (As if you wouldn’t drop dead from surprise by getting 100 responses to anything.)

    While I’m posting, this is as good an idea as any to ask: Why do you have the annoying “snap” balloon that pops up every time my cursor moves over a link? It’s visually annoying, and if I just want to use the link, I have to wait for the balloon to pop up and then slide down to a different letter of the link. What’s the upside to the darned thing?

    Oh, and I guess I should add — I can confirm from personal observation that yes, indeed, Jack was thoroughly and unambiguously friendless throughout his college days. He thought I was one, I think, but I was lying.

    Gee, I’d better get my coffee now.

    • You’d better. No, as usual, Bill is wrong, and as is even more usual, so are you. Idiotic as the objections to Katy are, obviously there were many of them. (Is one enough? No. Ten? No. “Many”? Yes, because “many” is defined as “enough that Sesame Street doesn’t think its a fringe group of whack jobs.”) What’s the up-side of keeping Katy’s boobs on display? It adds nothing to the educational content, or even, really, the entertainment value. It was a gratuitous addition, so a gratuitous subtraction to make the Puritanical calm does no damage, in principle or otherwise.. Comedy Central, on the other hand, capitulating to the demands to censor “South Park,” betrayed its own mission. Being outrageous and offensive to all is that show’s reason for being.

      No, I wouldn’t pull the Katy link, because the cleavage shot is necessary to understanding the story….sorry, cleavage-haters. You can’t write about “objectionable” cleavage without showing it. Ditto the earlier “piece of shit” reference. Sorry if it offends, but that’s the story. Similarly, when I write about the use of the word “nigger,” I use the word, and I’m sorry if it offends, but again, it’s essential to the story.

      I have no idea what that balloon is you speak of. I don’t get it on my browser. There is a screen shot of the website links on the right column when you run your cursor over it, but that’s all.

  2. Im not talking about it being PC to pull her spot, although I thinks it idiotic to pull it becuase of breasts. Kids wont even notice it.

    Im speaking of your PC statement :

    “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.”

    That is the most PC thing I have ever read. Im supose to censor myself on the off chance I may offend someone? where did you go to school? Berkley?

    • Who said “off-chance”? The SNP isn’t “PC”…it’s called “manners”…if one can accomplish the same goals without offending reasonable people, then do it. It shouldn’t be the least bit controversial. What’s the alternative? Go ahead and offend as many people as possible, just because you can?

  3. I agree to a point Jack. In discussing something you should try to be polite. But today everyone is so hyper sensitive you never know what is going to offend someone . As long as I am not using foul language, calling anyone a racist name or sladering someone I’m not going to censor myself. If people dont want to listen they can walk away.

    Now drop dead you fucking Yankee Hippy. 🙂

    • Jack,

      I think there may be some crossed wires between you and Bill here. In my email to you about a week ago, I think I tried to highlight the flaw of the SNP’s verbiage. Did you notice that part of the email? I understand if you disagree, but I’ll wager there’s something to be done about it.

  4. Come on people. You either do not have children or are totally unaware of the perverts out there. Perrys outfit is not too bad, but the mcostume designers could have raised it a couple inches, she only needs to bend over and a nipple will pop out. Next thing you know you all will be happy with male stars showing up shirtless and pubic hairs stickining out!!!

    • See, on TV they have this thing called videotape, and another thing called “editing.” I think it’s fair to assume that Katy’s whole bosom could have popped out and sung “it’s not easy being green” during an unaired version of the song without the kiddies ever knowing about it. One would think Sesame Street would have built up some residual trust over the years…it has trod the line of coolness, humor and age-appropriate fare better than anyone, including Disney. Now people want to inject themselves as costume designers? Pretty sad. Still, if I were Big Bird, I’d say it’s more important to air on the side of soothing parents, even ones who sit in terror in front of a pre-taped show convinced that someone is going to have a pubic hair moment.

      More comments like this will drive me over to Bill and Tom’s side.

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