C Is for Cookie

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
Nov. 4 2009 2:41 PM

C Is for Cookie

As I write this, the apostrophe-deprived search term big bird s birthday tops Google Trends, proof that Sesame Street 's publicity department is hard at work marketing the show's 40 th season. In his innocence and eagerness, Big Bird is enormously endearing, but could we also devote a moment to his blobbiest blue colleague? Here is Renata Adler writing on Cookie Monster "part of the intellectual history of a generation" in The New Yorker in 1972, a passage especially entertaining in the way the Muppet's fuzziness brushes the writer's cold, brushed-metal style:

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Cookie is a fanatic, undeviating in the quality of his obsession. He eats things. Many lessons on Sesame Street are terminated when something eats them. But Cookie, who has of late been eating mainly cookies, is a junkie. "To me, your nose is a cookie," he once said to another Muppet in a desperate moment. When cookies arrive, he tends to eat the entire shipment, but he is moved to empathy at the sight of a human being temporarily deprived of a cookie.

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The most monstrous of Sesame Street 's monsters, he is desire turned comic-grotesque. In an important sign of his derangement, Cookie Monster is the only core character to sport bobbling pupils in his eyes. His signature song, " C Is for Cookie ," is a pub song invested with rousing grandeur, an anthem to monomania. "Let's think of other things that starts with C," he growls, before entertaining second thoughts. "Ah, who cares about the other things!" His lack of interest in much other than eating extends even to grammar. Him wants proper declension.

His diet is these days more balanced, having come to include fruits, vegetables, and Stephen Colbert's Peabody Award , but his soul is immutable. He is brought to you by the insatiability of every child. Sesame Street taught us how to watch television, and Cookie Monster taught us how to want it.

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Troy Patterson is Slate's writer at large and writes the Gentleman Scholar column.

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