From Cookie Monster To Cookie Cutter

By Ron Ciancutti

“Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good; that honor, courage, and virtue mean everything; that power and money, money and power mean nothing; that good always triumphs over evil; and I want you to remember this: that love ... true love never dies. You remember that, boy. You remember that. Doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. You see, a man should believe in those things, because those are the things worth believing in.”
--Robert Duvall as Hub McCann, Secondhand Lions (2003)

My son-in-law saved up a little money for an extra-special birthday gift for his son. He bought really good seats for one of the local professional basketball games. He deliberately bought the seats in advance for a late-season game so it might be one that really mattered heading into the playoffs. In such a case, it would be a great game with everyone at their best. Instead, the hometown team was already “up” enough games that the game was competitively irrelevant. As a result, two of the big starters on the team were “on rest” (in preparation of the playoffs) and didn’t even dress for the game. My grandson loved spending time with his dad, he was in awe of the massive and “electric” arena, but his heroes didn’t play and that was really what he wanted to see. I understand the team’s motives, but I don’t remember the great athletes of my youth ever taking a day off during the season so they could rest. They played for the fans as well as for themselves, simply for love of the game, their city, and the loyal people who made them famous.

Last summer, my wife and I had tickets to see one of my favorite 1970s/’80s bands at an outdoor venue. We had a terrific dinner and settled into our seats on a cool summer night. The breeze was blowing nicely, and suddenly there was the band. When the music started, the lead singer’s beautiful, muted vocals broke through the air, and it was awesome. But after he sang no more than 10 measures, the back-up singers picked up the melodic line and sang in places he typically would have. This continued throughout the concert. Yes, he’s getting older like a lot of us, but I didn’t come to hear the back-up singers, I paid to hear him. So, maybe with this “method” he can sing X number of additional concerts and make a greater amount of dollars, but what about his loyal fan base? I mean, I’ll never pay to see him again, and I heard whispers among the crowd echoing the same sentiment. Was the negative reaction of many of his fans worth the extra bucks he’ll make with more concerts? How about fewer shows and better quality? Nah. Not today. People just don’t seem to think like that anymore. It’s all about the money.

I used to enjoy watching the network that was all about food—the secrets behind great dishes, the little tricks to enhance cooking at home—it was terrific. Then someone decided that every show would derive a better following if there was a winner and, therefore, a loser; a better following, more commercials, more money (same old trail). And to add insult to injury and increase the drama/trauma, when someone loses, when his butter doesn’t separate or his clams don’t open or God forbid his cake falls, he is berated and reduced to tears, and a camera follows him out of the room to capture the breakdown like live-action film from COPS. As if that’s not enough, the off-camera voice can be heard talking to the losing chef like the host on Jeopardy!, who berates the contestant who loses the Daily Double. “No, I’m sorry, Bob, but the answer is “Kookaburr-a” not “Kookaburr-o.”

I’m so sorry, Alex.

“Well, (pitiful exhale) let’s move on.”

The Breaking Point
Then I learned that Sesame Street has been taming down one of its funniest characters due to pressure from outside consulting agencies. The show no longer wants the Cookie Monster to go wild for cookies. Evidently, his over-the-top reaction and nuttiness at the sight of cookies proves he has an eating disorder and, like his good friend The Count, who can’t stop counting, proves they both are obsessive-compulsive.  

Let that one sink in, my brothers and sisters: the Cookie Monster—who kept countless kids laughing since the creation of his character—is being called out now. He’s out of control. Don’t get me wrong because the willingness of this production to try to help kids (with similar maladies) in any way is worthy of applause. The recent addition of a muppet-child with autism gives great comfort to many parents, as well as adults, but really? The nutty, crazy, hilarious, and extreme Cookie Monster?

Told What To Think
My comment has a familiar tone. The constant focus on political correctness and subsequent willingness to be so forgiving and less stalwart about what we truly believe is perhaps changing who we are and maybe not for the better. The value of a man’s word is being minimized. We’re being told what opinion we’re supposed to have instead of expressing the opinion we do have.

  • The champion millionaire athlete needs the night off. We should understand he’s tired.
  • The singer can’t task his voice every night so the audience has to hear less of him, despite the cost of a ticket. Fans are reminded he has a right to make as much money as he wants.
  • And the chef who just demonstrated that great recipe, let’s not forget he may be a great cook, but when he went one-on-one with another great chef, HE LOST when his soufflé didn’t stand very well. He should be hated for that.

So I guess I have no right to think that things like the cartoons and characters of yesteryear that made me laugh during a politically unaware era should be able to stand the test of time. See, I always found that personally and in my observation of others that the things my family tried to protect me from later backed up on me when reality bit. If we break every fall, never demand accountability from others, and prod and push our peers to desensitize situations so people with hurdles in their lives (which we ALL have) never have to face them, how will they ever learn to overcome and try harder, keep their word, and understand what’s expected of them?

What if late in the fourth quarter of a critical basketball game, the fans just left? With the score tied and the championship on the line, everyone just left? I wonder how the well-rested players would feel?

What if we started buying albums and recordings made by the back-up singers instead of the star?

What if the educational characters that kids were introduced to were the same? No differences, all just “cookie cutters” of the same color, same issues, same, same, same? What could possibly be learned from that?

Principles Never Die
Do you see where I’m going here? No matter how politically things get in this country, there are some basic principles that should never fade away. If we see to the principles, we shouldn’t have to disappoint each other or guard each other from the truth; it will reflect our character.

Then, as my opening quotation points out, a man can believe in those things because those are the things worth believing in. And if they remain true in a man’s mind, he can act upon them.

That’s how we learn to respect ourselves. My dad lived that way and learned that from his dad. He then passed that on to me. I’ve shared it with my children and now it’s on this page. What you do with it is up to you. Completely up to you.

Ron Ciancutti has worked in the parks and recreation industry since he was 16 years old, covering everything from maintenance, operations, engineering, surveying, park management, design, planning, recreation, and finance. He holds a B.S. in Business from Bowling Green State University and an M.B.A. from Baldwin Wallace University. He has held his current position as Director of Procurement since 1990. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at ron@northstarpubs.com.