Vodcast: Leveraging Childhood Stuff to Tell Adult Stories

happytime murders

No Sesame. All Street.

If you grew up watching Sesame Street, you may be a bit shocked with the new “puppetry” movie, The Happytime Murders. By taking a bunch of puppets who look a lot like those beloved childhood Sesame Street Muppets and making them very adult—this movie aims to shock.

But we’ve seen this before. Ted. South Park. Even The Simpsons—now considered by some to be almost wholesome—was intentionally subversive back in the day. There’s a fascination with transforming the innocent into the adult. I wanted to know more about why this is so appealing, so I sat down with Paul Asay and Adam Holz to hear what they had to think about it all.

Who wrote this?

Kristin Smith is the most recent addition to the Plugged In team. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. When she's not writing or editing, she enjoys traveling the world with her husband, Eddy, and running through Colorado Springs’ Garden of the Gods. She loves coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan), and is eagerly awaiting the birth of her first baby, Judah.

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Rocketshipper More than 1 year ago
FYI, Sesame Street sued HTM because of it's ad campaign slogan "no sesame, all street" which obviously references sesame street.  They were NOT suing because of the idea of adult puppets itself, it kind of sounded like that was what the vodcast is implying.

I don't fault HTM for their goal, to make something more adult with puppets, but their execution.  It's really not that "mature", despite the content, it's like a little kid dressed up as an adult yelling for attention.  there IS a decent story inside that movie, an interesting murder mystery, commentary on race (the puppets are a stand in for minorities, obviously) a few funny moments, but they seem to think that just having lots of language and other "adult" stuff is what makes it mature.   Roger Rabbit was just as "adult" in subject matter but half as offensive.  Avenue Q is still somewhat offensive, but was also twice as clever and intelligent as this.

I don't get why this would feel to someone like it was "attacking their childhood".  I don't really get how anything new can make something else that already exists less good.  It makes me think of people who yell "my childhood is RUINED FOREVER" every time Hollywood remakes an 80s movie, like some of the Ghostbuster fans acted when the recent remake came out, or the star wars fans reacting to TLJ.  If you don't want to see it, then don't, but it seems if your attachment to something in childhood is so strong that it makes you angry, offended, etc. for new material to be a certain way, then that might not be totally healthy.  Not that this is even something old rebooted, its just the medium of Jim Henson style puppets being used to tell a different kind of story.  the old Muppets movies and shows were definitely not offensive the way HTM was, but they certainly weren't just "sesame street" level kid shows either; the Muppets have always had some knowing winks to the adult audience throughout their material.

So anyway, even if HTM wasn't that great, I still feel in theory I can actually get behind what they are trying to do.  It bugs me when people insist that certain things like animation for instance, are "only for kids".  I'm a huge fan of japanese animation (anime) and relative to america, their animation is truly a *medium* rather than a genre, their are anime shows for kids, but there are so many others catering to a huge range of audiences, genres, and types of stories that it can't be accurately contained in the "kids stuff" box, and I wish animation and such in america could have that reception.  We are definitely taking steps in the right direction; Pixar has proven time an again they can appeal to all ages, and there are shows like "Voltron Legendary Defender" and the 90s DC Batman series that show animation can match live action, but it still seems like lots of people won't take something like animation seriously.  (like for instance Pluggedin editors; if it wasn't your guys' jobs to review movies, and you didn't have kids, would any of you go see a Pixar film on your own, even if they have proven to be appealing to wider audiences?)
Joshua Kroeger More than 1 year ago
I feel it's really not necessary for subversive humor in the media these days, especially since every Disney movie feels obligated to include sexual innuendo and gay characters.  They’re not the only ones, of course, but I will say that I still enjoy them for the creativity and pro-family themes.  Even the Shrek films, which are really just animated films for adults, have lots of pro-family and pro-marriage values in them.  At least I can appreciate these themes in entertainment, flawed as it can be.