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Friday, Feb. 23, 2024
The Observer

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Elmo’s adventures in therapy-land

Elmo is possibly the oldest three-and-a-half year-old out there. Debuting in 1980 unofficially, and in a full capacity five years later, Elmo is not just a staple of television but the American cultural zeitgeist. For decades, Elmo has guided young children into slightly older childhood, teaching them colors, letters and important life lessons. As a figure, Elmo represents all of us: a curious, playful and loving child. Elmo cares about all of us, and more than anything, Elmo is a friend to everyone. And like any good friend, sometimes Elmo checks on our mental wellbeing on social media. 

If this was an episode of “Sesame Street,” the words of the day would be “trauma dumping.” Jan. 29, 2024, 10:46 a.m. EST — Elmo’s official social media account posted on X: “Elmo is just checking in! How is everybody doing?” It was an innocent-enough comment, but the masses forgot they were responding to the social media account of a children’s show mascot, who is a child. Ranging from personal issues to wider existential dread, the responses overall carried a notion of despair. Once again, I wish to remind you that this was directed at Elmo, from the (formerly) PBS television series “Sesame Street.”

The post — due to the responses it generated more than anything else — went viral. Particularly, the response, “Elmo I’m gonna be real I am at my f*cking limit,” caught the attention of social media users and was re-shared on multiple compilation accounts. Because we live in an unserious world, Elmo was asked to take time off from his rigorous schedule of counting, spelling and feeding his goldfish Dorothy to make an appearance on the morning program “Today.” Of course, the show would not ask an unaccompanied minor Muppet to be on the show without a guardian, so Elmo’s dad Louie also joined the show. This is where things take a turn for the even weirder. 

“Seinfeld” is a popular 1990s sitcom co-created by comedians Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David. Larry David followed up on the success of “Seinfeld” with his own show, “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” which will debut its final season soon. Due to his ongoing publicity tour for the show, David was on the set of “Today” at the same time as Elmo. As the kind-hearted Muppet spoke on concerns such as mental health and wellbeing, David literally and figuratively “saw red.” Without warning, David snuck up behind the couch Elmo was seated on and assaulted the Muppet. 

There is no history of animosity between David and Elmo. There is no reason to believe this attack was premeditated and therefore could possibly be classified as a crime of passion. It is also fully possible that this was a pre-planned publicity stunt as “Sesame Street” and “Curb” are both owned and produced by parent company HBO. Regardless of intent or planning, this is one of the only (if not first) live broadcasts of an assault of a Muppet. 

“Today” hosts Savannah Guthrie, Hoda Kotb and Craig Melvin (alongside guest Al Roker) implored David to apologize to Elmo, which David did. Then he laughed immediately after. The authenticity of the gesture is up for debate, considering that during an appearance on “Late Night With Seth Meyers,” David claimed he did not regret it and he “would do it again.” I believe Elmo has no malice in his heart, but it is also important to note that he has never been provoked in such a way. Whether he will retaliate will be seen, but I feel Elmo’s options are limited due to him being a Muppet and three-and-a-half years old.