As people around the country and world struggle to understand the events surrounding Friday’s (Dec. 14) elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, an old “Sesame Street” video seems to be helping. The short clip, in which Big Bird learns about Mr. Hooper’s death, first aired in 1982. But it still feels meaningful after 30 years.
“Sesame Street” chose to address the issue of death when Will Lee, the actor who played the Mr. Hooper character died suddenly. Like many small children, Big Bird did not understand what death even meant. This became clear when the Muppet asked when Hooper was coming back.
“Big Bird, when people die they don’t come back.”
Of course, Big Bird didn’t just accept this. Why should he when even the adults couldn’t explain what happened and why he would never see his friend again.
As is often the case with kids, Big Bird’s reaction focused on his own fears: “But he’s got to come back! Who’s going to take care of the store? And who’s going to make my birdseed milkshakes?” he asked his grief-stricken friends.
Big Bird didn’t just magically accept everything and feel fine. The best he was offered is the memories of Mr. Hooper:
“It’ll never be the same around here without him, but you know something, we can all be very happy that we had a chance to be with him and to know him and to love him a lot when he was here.”
Considering that the cast was dealing with the actual death of a friend, the tears throughout this scene were real. That may be why the video has become popular again in the face of a senseless tragedy.
“But I don’t like it. It makes me sad.”
No one likes it. The video still works.