Wednesday

"Follow That Bird"

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Sesame Street taught me a lot of valuable life lessons.  Through it, I learned some rudimentary sign language, how to count to 12, and the fact that when people die, like Mr. Hooper did, they don't come back (and that revelation in itself is a post for another day).

This is part of why the message of Follow That Bird comes as such a shock.  The main antagonist is Miss Finch, a social worker who places Big Bird with a family of dodos so he can "be with his own kind" (a strange choice since as we all know, Big Bird is actually a lark).  Instilling a fear of social workers in young children doesn't seem like the best idea, especially since in this case she does seem to have a point: Big Bird is just six years old and living on the street, his only best friend is an extinct and possibly imaginary woolly mammoth, and he regularly hangs out with grouches who live in trash cans.  So, living in a suburban home with a nice nuclear family doesn't seem like such a bad tradeoff.

In an attempt to flee from Miss Finch, Big Bird takes refuge with the Sleaze Brothers, an aptly-named pair who run a traveling funfair.  The Sleaze Brothers kidnap Big Bird, paint him blue, and force him to perform in their show as "The Bluebird of Happiness."  As said "Bluebird," Big Bird sings what is perhaps the saddest song ever written, "I'm So Blue."  Criminal psychologists could show this scene to easily diagnose sociopathy; in fact, if you don't shed at least a tear or two, you're probably not even human.

Five years after Follow That Bird, the band They Might Be Giants released a song called "Birdhouse in Your Soul" that never failed to remind me of this heartbreaking scene.  Luckily, I felt no dubious emotional connection to "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" so the album wasn't a total loss.

Lesson learned:
Make a little birdhouse in your soul.


Follow That Bird.  Dir. Ken Kwapis.  Perf. Carol Spinney, Jim Henson, Frank Oz.  Warner Bros., 1985.
Watch Big Bird break your heart as the "Bluebird of Happiness" on YouTube here.
Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird

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