NPR logo Of Cookie Monster and Other Bad Guys


Of Cookie Monster and Other Bad Guys

Well that didn't take long. What are we, three days into this, and we've already got a little backlash? Commenter Steve Petersen writes:

"Cookie Monster unfortunately represents too many Americans, both the obese and [the] deeply indebted ... "

Now, I'm not sure I know how the C-Monster got himself in hock, or what evidence there is to suggest that he's living beyond his means. (Come to think of it, how many Muppets have a visible source of income? I seem to recall Kermit anchoring a newscast, but aside from that ...)

Still, Steve's comment raises a question: Need an intriguing character be a good role model?

I'd answer with a resounding no.

In fact, you'll meet more than one thoroughly disagreeable villain in this series. And as Elizabeth suggested in her on-air introduction to the series, the wicked may well have more to teach us about ourselves than the good.

While we're on the topic, commenter Callie Kimball asks:

"The characters need to be American, but the author does not? Any genre — drama, fiction, poetry, visual art, and, I assume, television — is fair fodder?"

Yes to the last bit. But on the first, we were thinking the other way around, actually: characters from American culture, high or low.

Now that you ask, though, we're intrigued: Outsiders have been known to contribute to our sense of ourselves; de Tocqueville (he said, insufferably) certainly told us a few things about the American body politic.

So if someone wants to make a case for an American character created by a non-American author/director/whatever, by all means submit an essay.

And as for that American thing, since I know some of you are probably wondering why we're being all xenophobic: It's just a frame, a way of defining the question in a manageable way.

Six millennia (at least) of human civilization is an awfully big field, after all. Taking stock of 232 years' worth of one culture's characters was hurdle enough, we thought.