PCA Commentary: Elmo, Katy Perry and Katy Perry’s Breasts

Became a man without an opinon isn’t worth a damn!

Elvis Presely on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in 1956 has his hips censored? Have we really evolved as a society since then?

In 1956 Elvis Presley appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show from the waist up.  After making a series of appearances on The Steve Allen Show, the repressed society of post-war America feared the “gyrations” of Elvis’ hips and deemed it “sexually suggestive”, thus the King of Rock ‘n Roll had his entire lower body censored by CBS executives prior to appearing on their hit Sunday night program.  The event has been noted time and time by media historians and scholars as one of the most notorious examples of television censorship and is an example on the mind set of America in the years prior to the sexual revolution.  More so, Elvis being filmed from the waist up has been deemed laughable by today’s society….or has it?  Have we really grown as a society?  Have we truly evolved?  After outrageous pop singer Katy Perry’s Sesame Street video with Elmo was pulled by the CTW last week after parent’s complaints on YouTube, I have to question our modern day’s world social and sexual evolution.   Suddenly it is as if we are suddenly living in 1956 again.

Too much clevage for "Sesame Street"? Elmo doesn't seem to mind!

For those who are really not in the know, pop singer Katy Perry was slated to appear in the season premier of Sesame Street this week performing a modified version of her hit single Hot and Cold with Muppet superstar Elmo.  The video was posted ahead of time on YouTube as a teaser to publicize the long running children’s series 41st season.  However, when a barrage of cynical remarks were made by the public about the video the CTW decided to pull Katy Perry’s appearance from the show altogether.  The reason?  Dressed in a yellow dress, the public criticized that Katy Perry was showing “too much cleavage.”  That’s right world.  Katy Perry has breasts and the public didn’t like a beautiful woman with breasts playing with Elmo.  Oh my God!   We already have to worry about sex, drugs, rock n’ roll and Republicans corrupting the children of America!  Now we have to worry about Katy Perry’s, fully covered breasts from causing social unrest and sexual deviance from the children of the world as well!  Oh the horror!

Was it Katy Perry's breasts that America fears, or is it Katy Perry herself? it's not like she wore one of her truly outrageous oufits on "Sesame Street"

The nonsense over the negative public reaction to Katy Perry’s Sesame Street video is mind numbing.  Any sane individual that watches the video can tell you that there isn’t anything sexually deviant about Katy and Elmo’s game of tag.  The video is hardly a Russ Meyer production.  Compared to some of the bizarre and provocative fashion creations that Katy Perry has become famous for wearing, Perry is actually dressed fairly conservatively, yet still keeping her eccentric fashion sense that has become even more famous then her music.    So why the reaction?  The truth of the matter is that it wasn’t Katy Perry’s cleavage that was censored.  It was Katy Perry herself.  Perry could have worn a burka and parents would have found a reason to find fault with her appearance.  Daring, eccentric and currently on the top of the pop charts, the singer who shocked and/or delighted the public with songs like Ur so Gay and I Kissed a Girl was censored due to who she is and not what she wore.  Katy’s public image is what Katy’s critics fear.  Katy Perry’s only crime was being sexy and popular, and Middle America fears sexy and popular.  Their fear of allowing someone sexy and popular play with Elmo is like allowing Charles Manson to hang out with Ernie and Bert.  The public always persecutes what they fear, and currently they fear Katy Perry. 

Preschoolers will most likely be more interested in Elmo then Katy Perry....or her breasts

But what about the preschool children that the video is directed towards?  In most cases it is unlikely that preschoolers know, or even care, who Katy Perry is.  To them the star of that video is going to be the figure that they recognize – Elmo.  Furthermore, no child will be focusing in on Katy Perry’s cleavage, and if they are then it is not the fault of Sesame Street, Katy Perry or the CTW.  That would be the fault of some very screwed up parenting and instead of posting negative remarks on YouTube, those parents really should be spending their time finding a good children’s therapist.

Muppet news flash folks. Your child is already aware that breasts exists.

But lets talk about breasts for a minute.  Your child is already aware that women have breasts!  The moment that they were breast fed they already figured the concept of breasts.  The moment a Barbie doll was undressed they figured the female anatomy out.  Breasts are a reality people.  The are a simple part of the basic female body and, like it or not, they have a lot to do with what makes women aesthetically attractive.  That’s just the way it is.  We can’t do anything about that.  But what is so ridiculous is that the video has absolutely NOTHING to do with Katy Perry’s breasts!  Her Sesame Street video is probably the most innocent video she has ever made.  There is no plunging necklines, no “nipple shots,”  no hints of alternative sexual lifestyles.  Its just Katy and Elmo playing tag.  In fact, the biggest tease in the video is Elmo who can’t vocalize to Katy Perry what he wants to do on their play date.  He’s the one who is all about the head games and furthermore he’s completly NAKED!  If you’re so freaked out about Katy Perry having breasts, then why don’t you get Elmo some pants!

A lot has changed since the 1970's when a coked out Richard Pryor recited the alphabet on "Sesame Street"

Criticism also needs to be launched at the CTW who didn’t stand behind Katy Perry and pulled the plug on her appearance after a small sector of society objected to an innocent and fun video. Historically the CTW has been noted for its groundbreaking and cutting edge programming.  The first popular children series to incorporate a muti-racial cast, with attention to urban and primarily black and Hispanic children, Sesame Street has a long history of being socially relevant.  In an appearance on Good Morning America, Elmo along with Sesame Street Executive Producer Carol-Lynne Parente stayed cleverly non committal about the decision, although remaining favorable to Katy Perry.  But this was the same company which, once upon a time, allowed Buffy Sainte-Marie to breast feed her son Cody on camera, explaining to Big Bird the functions of breast feeding in a gentle and beautiful manner.  Katy Perry’s appearance was even more innocent than the time that the CTW allowed a coked out Richard Pryor recite the alphabet!  Both Buffy Sainte-Marie and Richard Pryor were allowed to go on air, but thirty years later the CTW wont let a fully dressed Katy Perry play tag with Elmo in fear of public discontent.  By censoring Katy Perry, the CTW has only shown that it has devolved to a gutless corporate entity.  Perhaps it is time for the CTW to take a good hard look at itself, and its legacy.

Eyes up Elmo! Who were the true perverts that were fixated on Katy Perry's breasts?

But most important it must be noted that it is not the children who took notice or offense to Katy Perry’s cleavage.  It was paranoid parents, Christian radicals, conservative censors and cynical assholes who have nothing better than be a faceless voice on the internet.  It is these figures that are the ones with the dirty minds that couldn’t take their eyes off of Katy Perry’s breasts.  You are the real perverts in our society that can find sexual deviance in an innocent children’s video.  They are the real scary ones.  They are the true enemies that doesn’t allow us to evolve as a society and makes us as sexually and socially repressed as we were in 1956.  That’s why I don’t want to play with the critics.  I’d much rather play with Elmo and Katy Perry.


  1. Jaime’s avatar

    Hear Hear!!!!! Way to go Sam!!!! Love your commentary, and I echo exactly the same words!! :D

  2. Aaron’s avatar

    I don’t think it needs to be a big deal. It’s just about what is appropriate for a time and place. Yes, the dress is a flesh-covered cover-up, but it’s very hard to tell in pictures and in the video.

    What if Maria had been wearing that dress? It’s just good form that if you’re doing an educational children’s program, maybe you tend not to dress girls in low-cut dresses. As somebody who lives in community with parents with young children, it’s not a big deal, but it is inappropriate. Our culture is absolutely obsessed with sex and “being sexy”. But maybe… just maybe… when you’re hanging out with Elmo it’s a time to not hang out FOR Elmo.

    It’s surprising that no one at any point in the shoot thought, “Hmm… There’s a lot of cleavage going on here… on SESAME STREET! Maybe we’ll use this other outfit instead.”

    It’s not being prudish to guard innocence. It’s just being appropriate.

  3. Breanna’s avatar

    While I can understand your criticism, I think you’re a little over the top here.

    “CTW has only shown that it has devolved to a gutless corporate entity. Perhaps it is time for the CTW to take a good hard look at itself, and its legacy.”

    Really? Over Katy Perry? I can’t wholly fault choosing to drop a pop starlet skit to avoid giving those radical groups you so dislike a reason to have the show itself yanked in their dominated markets (and thus not reaching those children with their many positive messages, as you note).

    Also, CTW (which you never name) – Children’s Television Workshop – is now known as Sesame Workshop and is a non-profit organization.

    Oh, and Katy’s wardrobe? Maybe not horribly offensive. However, young girls get enough messages about sex and children are sexualized in our culture enough as it is. I can see why many parents, irregardless of political leanings or religion, would prefer children’s programs to avoid these kinds of images. Our kids will be bombarded with them elsewhere. Sesame Street itself is trying to put forward many positive images/role models and may not want a kerfuffle over a sexy pop starlet to undermine their good work.

    I also disagree with your comparison – there’s a big difference between showing a woman’s breasts for breastfeeding and showing a woman’s breasts or excessive cleavage for titillation (not that I think Katy Perry’s outfit was *that* bad). Seeing Richard Pryor, kids don’t understand and won’t feel pressured to be like him and do drugs. Seeing women primarily portrayed to enhance their sexual nature, like so many pop stars are, does affect how little girls define beauty – they feel the social pressure to be sexy and judge themselves by unrealistic standards.

  4. James’s avatar

    Let me start by saying that I agree the video should not have been pulled. You make valid points by saying that breasts are a natural part of the female human form, and it is repressive and even discriminatory to deny them a place in our lives – even the lives of children. We shouldn’t be sending out the message that breasts are evil.

    However, you weaken your argument when you resort to rhetoric and ad hominem tactics. For example, to say that the video displayed her “fully covered breasts” is false. Her nipples are fully covered. A significant portion of her breasts are covered. But to say that her breasts are FULLY covered, right beside a picture of her in a costume that clearly plunges low enough to display her ample endowment, only robs you of credibility.

    Again, you raise great points about censorship with the reference to Elvis, and better points about combating censorship with the Buffy clip (I wonder why big bird didn’t try to explain that regurgitation is a perfectly natural way to feed a young one).

    Remember that arguments are best won through rational discourse, not inflammatory name calling. Throwing mud just results in everyone looking childish and dirty.

    I’d also suggest that you scan through the article for confused usage of “than” and “then”, and “your” and “you’re”. I’d also take a look at the last paragraph to make sure the verb tenses agree with the subjects. That stuff may be okay for blog rants, but it shouldn’t fly for something intended as a professional editorial.

  5. Nicole’s avatar

    I remember the coked out alphabet! Pretty sure I just laughed and was none the wiser. I think today if someone was breastfeeding on Sesame Street, there would be a much bigger deal made. I agree that we seem to be moving backwards with things sometimes.

    My daughter watched the YouTube video three times and every time yelled, “yay Elmo!!!” she couldn’t have cared less about Katy Perry. Seeing cleavage doesn’t rob kids of their innocence. Making such a huge deal out of nothing does!!


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