Alongside giant birds, effeminate elephants, and a squeaky-voiced Elmo, Cookie Monster has become a staple of the #SesameStreet diet. He has become a part of pop culture lore, even parodied in the likes of Family Guy while begging for his fix of those gooey-centered choc chip cookies. I remember growing up in a time that #CookieMonster released his own line of cookies, which probably would be banned nowadays due to additives and sugar — it is SunnyD all over again.
Just like Tom and Jerry smoking their cigars, or the transgender episode of Pokémon, a blue trash can addicted to junk food was never going to last long in the P.C. culture of cotton wool kids. Rumors swirl that the blue-fuzzed eating machine has ditched his high-cookie, low-veggie, diet in favor of a more green lifestyle, and even changed his name from Cookie Monster to Veggie Monster. The reported aim was to help with childhood obesity in America, but what's next, Oscar the Grouch moving into government-funded homing to tackle the vagrancy issue?
New Year, New Me
While Cookie Monster always has, and always will be, a biscuit fiend, it hasn't stopped the winds of change. Thanks to letters like the above, Cookie has struggled with his image as the Robert Downey Jr. of cookies since 1972. However, it was 2005 that saw a change in Sesame Street's programming to move toward a healthier focus and the start of Veggie Monster madness. Was it just to get kids to eat their 5-A-Day, or has it always been like this?
In 2005, Cookie's segments have been more about nutritional values, a healthy lifestyle, while his trademark tune "C is for Cookie" was replaced by a new anthem "A Cookie Is a Sometime Food" (based on the Porgy and Bess song "A Woman is a Sometime Thing"). The song may have prompted the whole Veggie Monster rumor, however, it was in fact Hoots the Owl who sang the song, with Cookie monster appearing at the end with the line "NOW is sometimes!" before gobbling his snacks.
In 2006, controversy around the possible emergence of Veggie Monster, or even a orange-tinged Carrot Monster, reached fever-pitch. Today Show co-host Matt Lauer directly approached the cookie in the room:
Cookie Monster: Me like fruit.
Matt Lauer: And there you have it. Cookie Monster likes fruit, and not cookies.
Monster: No! You members of the media blow story way out of proportion! Me still like cookies!
Lauer: Then why fruit?
Monster: Why not fruit? It delicious! And healthy. Me still eat cookies, like me world-famous for doing, but now me eat other things, too.
The nostalgia-lead fans of classic Sesame Street were still concerned that the Parent Brigade were trying to do away with the cuddly creature, and an online petition was launched to boycott Sesame Street until Cookie Monster was returned to his full, gluttonous, capacity. Meanwhile PBS was forced to supply an email response to reaffirm that Cookie Monster isn't causing their tubby tots:
Thank you for writing to PBS. We always enjoy receiving feedback from our viewers and fans.
The educational goal of SESAME STREET is to help prepare children for school and to put them on a positive trajectory for life. Childhood obesity is a serious health concern in this country and the producers of SESAME STREET decided to include this important subject in their curriculum. While they have chosen to use the power of SESAME STREET to teach children about healthy foods and other important healthy habits, they have no plans to change Cookie Monster's name or his wonderful, compulsive personality which our viewers have grown to love. Cookie Monster will continue to obsess over his adored favorite: the cookie, but he now also eats fruits and vegetables.
Thank you again for your email. We appreciate your concern for SESAME STREET and hope you and your family continue to enjoy the wide variety of programs available on your local PBS station.
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A Long Time Coming
As with any mob mentality, the idea of a Cookie-less monster was over-hyped hearsay. Cookie had actually been promoting the idea of a healthier him since all the way back in 1974, possibly thanks to the M.J. Rockstads of this world and their letters. Cookie Monster has often been depicted alongside veggies both on and off screen. A 1976 Milton Bradley jigsaw puzzle didn't have a cookie in sight, 1980's Sesame Street Dictionary even saw him turn down a jar of his favorite food, while Cookie's hit rap single "Healthy Food" came out in 1987. Children's Television Workshop has been careful to never use the word "diet," for obvious reasons around children, but have always maintained that Cookie Monster isn't a one food boy.
In 2006 he appeared on The Martha Stewart Show and confirmed that he wouldn't be changing his name to "Brussels Sprouts Monster," to the rapturous applause of the audience, but it is an issue that still seems to dog the character. In 2010, the official Sesame Street Twitter again had to dispel rumors that Cookie Monster would be disappearing:
One of the Season 43 episodes from 2012 features Cookie Monster's own parody of "I Am What I Am." Mario Lopez plays a reporter, alongside a mock video of MeTube and the headline "Cookie Monster is Veggie Monster." The segment seems to once and for all put to bed any doubt that he prefer vegetables to cookies.
The internet is awash with images of Cookie Monster dyed green as a Photoshopped Veggie Monster, alongside hate slogans of "kill him," but we can rest assured that Cookie Monster's thirst for baked goods won't get going anywhere anytime soon. You can see why we might be concerned though, in the hypersensitive 21st century it isn't too hard to imagine our furry friend being swapped out for a giant educational carrot. Despite STILL some parent letters for the removal of Cookie Monster, it wouldn't make sense to get rid of one of the #Muppets' most marketable characters. Expect the googly-eyed madman to continue his crumb-lust until the time that Elmo finally hits puberty.
Check out Cookie Monster's "I Am What I Am," and don't forget our poll below!