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Pull the plug on Big Bird

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By Alexandra Petri
Monday, Oct. 8, 2012, 8:56 p.m.

“I'm sorry, Jim,” Mitt Romney told debate moderator Jim Lehrer on Wednesday. But if elected president, “I'm going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I like PBS. I love Big Bird.”

Love it or not, that's the end of the line for the feathered monster. And I for one would be grateful.

I have always had problems with Big Bird. I don't know what he is. He is 6 years old, by the show's count, but I suspect that he is in fact a fully grown man in a bird suit.

He is 8 feet 2 inches tall, according to the Muppet Wiki, and he keeps flip-flopping on the subject of his species. One minute he's a lark. The next he's part canary. The next he's a Bigus canarius. He needs to get his story straight. One of his catchphrases is “Asking questions is a good way to find things out!” But no one is asking this bird the right questions.

I am not a Muppet hater. But I am curious whether Big Bird is capable of supporting himself without government aid. He sounds like a 47 percenter to me — have you ever seen him pay taxes? Who is paying for the lavish nest that he shares with his teddy bear, Radar? Is Granny Bird still claiming him as a dependent? What happened to the caseworker who placed him with a family of dodos?

When is he going to get a job? He can't still be 6 years old. I am no longer 6, and Big Bird was 6 before I was.

That's the main trouble with “Sesame Street.” I am no longer 6, and now I realize that the Count has severe OCD and maybe should get help, and the Cookie Monster needs to get his eating under control. I am no longer 6, and when I hear the name “Grover” I assume someone wants me to sign a tax pledge. Before, it was a gaggle of lovable monsters who wanted to sing me the alphabet, and now I am supposed to have political feelings. There are petitions for Bert and Ernie to get married. Never mind that Muppets do not exist below the waist. We are no longer 6, and we stop assuming you are roommates after you've lived together for decades and tend plants together.

Get to Sesame Street and dysfunction lurks everywhere. Oscar lives in a garbage can, even though PBS has received federal funding for years. Don't get me started on Elmo, whose voice and insistence on using the third person are intensely annoying. Why are our children watching this? Get them away! If they want to watch the shenanigans of grown men dressed as tuskless mammoths, point them toward the Internet.

The Internet loves Big Bird. The Internet loves all things “Sesame Street.” It brings us back to when we were 6. To hate Big Bird is to say that something was wrong with our childhood. But this has clouded our judgment. Just because we remember something from our youth does not make it good. We remember dial-up.

But even Mitt Romney knows that you cannot hate Big Bird. That would be like not loving Big Brother. You have to pledge lip service to the giant avian before you strap him to your car and drive away. And good riddance, say I.

Sharing? Being true to yourself? Growing familiar with letters? All well and good. But the Muppets have been on the air for decades. Now they just sing inane duets with, make “True Blood” parodies and cover Carly Rae Jepsen.

You can't be 6 forever. End the bird.

Alexandra Petri is a Washington Post columnist and author of the ComPost blog at

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