5 reasons why our kids need Oscar the Grouch

Oscar the Grouch is good for kids.
Oscar the Grouch is good for kids. Photo: Sesame Street

Oscar the Grouch is Sesame Street's resident grump. He lives in a garbage bin, enjoys telling people to "scram" and is always complaining about something or someone. 

In the 2014 documentary I am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story (Spinney was the man behind both Big Bird and Oscar) Sesame Street's Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente noted that "If the show was being created today, you probably wouldn't get a character like Oscar approved."

And yet, characters like Oscar are vital when it comes to helping children understand concepts such as empathy and tolerance and emotions like sadness and anger.

Just like gloomy Eeyore from Winnie-the-Pooh and the personified feelings from Pixar's Inside Out, Oscar's moodiness and negativity brings another important layer to the happy, sunny, positive street of our own, and now our kids', childhoods. He brings balance - and a grumpier kind of wisdom that's just as important.

To help wish Oscar the Grouch a very unhappy birthday (today's his special day) join us as we celebrate some of the lessons he teaches our kids: 

1. It's okay to be different

In I am Big Bird, Oscar's character is described as "testing the limits of differing perspectives and how we accept somebody with a totally, totally different perspective."

On Sesame Street, Oscar's quirks are embraced by his friends and neighbours. He's accepted and loved even though he's different and despite the fact that he likes trash and hates Christmas.

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As longstanding cast member Maria explains, "That's what makes you, you and me, me.

2. One man's trash is another grouch's treasure

Whether he's rapping with Macklemore  ("I wear my grouchy clothes, I look deplorable") singing, "Just Throw it My Way," or eating Ernie's dessert creation of Banana, cold gravy and ice cubes ("That's my second favourite dessert!") Oscar shows us that one man's trash is another grouch's treasure

And, in the new-look Sesame Street, Oscar also pops up in recycling and compost bins. In his own grouchy way, he's teaching our kids how to look after the planet, too.

3. Embrace who you are and be yourself:

One thing Oscar refuses to do is change. He's anti-social and he quite likes being miserable That's just who he is.

"Don't go changing, just to please me, because being friendly's not your style…" sings Billy Joel, before telling Oscar, " We want you just the way you are."

 

4. Just because you're grouchy, doesn't mean you can't also be kind:

In I am Big Bird, Sesame Street writer and director, Jon Stone, says of Oscar, "When we wrote him in the beginning he was a totally negative character. He's the dark side of everybody. He's what children are told 'they must not do.'" And yet, over time, Spinney's embodiment of Oscar also gave him a "heart of gold."

"He's not evil, he's not cruel, he's just really grouchy," adds puppeteer Laurent Linn in the documentary. Indeed, what Oscar teaches children is that you can be grumpy but also compassionate and caring. The grumpiest people can still show kindness, too.

We see this when Oscar reads to his pet worm Slimey, ("What terrible piece of literature will I read to you today?") and, through his tiny friend, demonstrates a much softer side to his personality. 

"The things a Grouch will do for his worm," says our favourite Grouch.

5. Emotions can be confusing:

Oscar teaches children about the complexity of emotions – and the way feelings can be linked in many different ways.

"I'm sad because I'm happy. And I'm happy 'cos I'm mad. I'm mad because it sounds sappy to be happy when you're sad."

"Oh, I'm a mess," says Oscar.

But that's why we love him.

Have an unhappy birthday, Oscar!

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