The Sesame Street Muppets have become such a part of our social consciousness that I don't think any of us really stop to think that the Muppets aren't living, breathing creatures---we must remember that they're puppets, controlled and voiced by living, breathing humans.
Humans, as in imperfect beings.
The face of Elmo, one of the more popular Muppets, was ripped off in a shocking and vile manner recently, revealing that its puppeteer, Kevin Clash, has been allegedly involved, in the past, with some hanky panky with at least one underage youth.
Two accusers came out against Clash, who is openly gay. The first recanted, saying that the relationship was consensual and legal (age-wise). But then a second accuser surfaced, and this one says that he and Clash became involved when the former was just 15 years old.
The second accuser has slapped Clash with a $5 million lawsuit, claiming he (the accuser) had only recently become aware of "adverse psychological and emotional effects."
Kevin Clash and Elmo
Regardless of the credibility of the accusations, Clash has submitted his resignation. Elmo is in need of a new alter ego.
Sesame Workshop issued this statement regarding Clash's resignation.
"Sesame Workshop's mission is to harness the educational power of media to help all children the world over reach their highest potential. Kevin Clash has helped us achieve that mission for 28 years, and none of us, especially Kevin, want anything to divert our attention from our focus on serving as a leading educational organization. Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding Kevin's personal life has become a distraction that none of us want, and he has concluded that he can no longer be effective in his job and has resigned from ‘Sesame Street.’ This is a sad day for ‘Sesame Street.’"
To Sesame Street's credit, they were ready to welcome Clash back into the family once the first charge was recanted. Clash's sexual orientation, thankfully, wasn't enough to pull the plug on him as being Elmo's puppeteer. But when the second charge came down, along with the accompanying lawsuit, SS felt like it had no choice but to call for Clash's resignation.
It's hard to argue with SS and Clash's decision. The SS brand has been a part of American households and families for about 40 years. Why should they risk any additional bad press and scuttlebutt by bringing Clash back while there is all this legal stuff going on?
Besides, the mystique and aura of Sesame Street's Muppets are based almost solely on the anonymity of the puppeteers. Yes, folks eventually found out that guys like Frank Oz and Jim Henson operated and voiced many of the original Muppets, but for the most part we aren't visualizing humans behind the scenes when Kermit the Frog or Miss Piggy are doing their thing.
They're not puppets, they're Muppets, for crying out loud! They're practically human.
The seedy story that is about to unfold about Kevin Clash (under-aged boys, meeting online, etc) is one that Sesame Street just as soon let play out somewhere else---anywhere else, other than behind Elmo's back.
It looks to be the end of a 28-year ride for Clash as Elmo's puppeteer, but it's an ending that needs to happen.
The sooner the anonymity of Elmo's puppeteer is returned, the better.