Sesame St S2: Ernie

And in the next clip, Ernie is trying to match cookies. He has one small cookie with a crisscross of icing on it and wants to find the other cookie that matches. He manages to grab a large cookie with icing which looks similar but isn’t the same size, and then who should come along but our resident cookie expert?



The best part of this is that Cookie is such a cookie expert that he actually manages to immediately pull out the right cookie with his eyes closed, for he is indeed the cookie whisperer. He then tells Ernie that “Me know an even better way to match cookies!” (again, using the correct-for-Cookie incorrect grammar), and stuffs all of the cookies into his mouth. “Now all cookies are crumbs and in my tummy. They all match!” And poor Ernie mourns his lost snack. You could say that, once again. he and Bert’s positions have been…criss-crossed!


Similarly, in “Matching Gloves and Shoes,” Cookie also gets all of Ernie’s cookies. This time, however, Ernie isn’t matching cookies but has two ready on a plate as his reward for when he’s done matching a number of items and putting them away. That is until Cookie arrives on the scene, helps him match and put away his gloves and shoes, etc., and then before Ernie can protest, graciously offers to help put away his cookies, as well. In his belly. Duh.


And in “Cuppycakes,” Ernie bakes a batch of cupcakes and afterwards has 7 on a plate ready for him to eat. But they look so beautiful, he wants to take a picture, so he runs off to get his camera, and Cookie nabs one in the meantime. On his return, Ernie shrugs and adds an extra cupcake to the pile before taking a picture with the hugest 1970s camera you ever did see. But by the time he looks up, Cookie has taken the 7th cupcake again! Ernie then adds the very final one to the pile, takes another photo, and again finds a cupcake missing, until the photo develops and he sees Cookie eating the cupcake! Cookie pops up, sees the photo, and says “Pretty!”


Cookie and Ernie’s relationship isn’t always such a one-sided affair of the blue, googly-eyed monster selfishly taking his cookies without once considering his orange friend’s feelings. In “Happy/Sad Cookie,” we see a surprisingly divergent and lovely dynamic unfold between them:



Here, Ernie demonstrates what it is to be happy, because of the fact that he has a cookie to eat. But then Cookie comes in, desperately sad, as he hasn’t had a cookie all day, and in order to cheer up his friend, Ernie gives his cookie to him. Even more incredibly, however, as soon as Cookie is about to bite into it, he notices that Ernie is now sad because he no longer has a cookie, at which point Cookie performs the most selfless act we’ve ever seen from him: he actually stops what he’s doing and gives the cookie back to Ernie. Which makes Ernie happy again but Cookie sad, so Ernie returns it to him, and the cycle continues again, until finally Ernie strikes upon the ingenious solution that the two of them share the cookie, reminiscent of when he offered to share his pillow with him in the previous season.


This time around, however, Cookie doesn’t selfishly destroy the object of their desire in the process. Instead, they both accidentally destroy it together. They each grab one side of the cookie and accidentally shatter it into smithereens, making them both miserable. But at least, they realize, they can both be sad together, the two sobbing in each other’s arms, which is a sweet display of friendship that also manages to avoid any hint of saccharine due to the humor. At the same time, moments like this are a beautiful way to reassert the show’s heart. Even characters who sometimes come across as selfish or egocentric actually do care for each other and can come through for one another at unexpected times.


Speaking of which, our last clip for today, “Ernie’s New Rubber Duckie” contains two–count them, 1, 2–that’s right, two surprises, one of which is the fact that, in it, we’re actually treated to a rare Oscar-out-of-his-trashcan sighting and furthermore one set inside Bert and Ernie’s apartment, and the second of which is that Oscar actually spends the entire sketch trying to be kind, albeit in his own unique way! As it begins, Oscar enters to discover that Ernie is crying, and instead of just staying in his own grouchy head or complaining about the noise, he actually asks Ernie what’s wrong, to which Ernie responds that his rubber duckie is missing. And Oscar actually offers to get him a replacement duck at the store, and although this isn’t the perfect solution for Ernie, he agrees to describe the duck to him so that he can make the attempt. Oscar asks what it looks like, and Ernie responds that it’s “cute and adorable…[and] sweet and cuddly-like” and that it “made a wonderful sound when you squeezed it”.


Oscar gets Ernie a new...erm...rubber duckie.

Oscar gets Ernie a new…erm…rubber duckie.

Armed with those clues, the disarmingly thoughtful Oscar goes off on his mission, and brings back an absolutely hideous monstrosity that looks a bit like a soft, knock-off troll doll with a Hitler mustache that makes a disturbing bleat-like wail when squeezed, all of which scares Ernie practically to death. At which point the two realize (a) that Ernie should have described physical features rather than his subjective feelings about his rubber duckie, and that (b) different people can have very different conceptions of what “cute” and “cuddly” means. Which is reiterated when, a moment later, Ernie accidentally steps on and finds his lost rubber duckie, which was hidden under a pile on the floor all along, and when Oscar finally lays his eyes on it, he says, “I thought you said your rubber duckie was cute…That’s ugly!”


But the best thing about the sketch, again, is that while, like “Happy/Sad Cookie,” its primary objective is to teach a lesson, this one’s a bit more complex and complicated to convey to a child than the previous one, being about seeing through another’s eyes rather than a fairly simple demonstration of emotions and definitions. And it does this by highlighting a scene of friendship, in which one is doing his best to make the other happy, even to his own potential detriment. And, again, this sense of camraderie is woven in without being obviously underlined. Jim Henson believed that children learn and retain more by watching and absorbing the examples their parents set by simply living their lives in front of their kids rather than through the deliberate lessons the parents tried to teach them through lectures, orders, or scolding. And these are perfect examples of that philosophy.


Tomorrow: more Ernie but this time in relation to his best friend!


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