Word to Big Bird
Published: Sunday, October 14, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
It’s funny how things change in four years.
Four years ago, I was a young and eager high school senior who was caught up in the aura of change Barack Obama brought during his campaign. It felt like a no brainer voting for Obama. It was hard for the general public to support an old, decrepit-looking Vietnam veteran (John McCain) who represented the same ideas that brought American optimism to an all-time low.
How could we have resisted voting for Obama? His charisma brought a renewed hope in a once-great nation; plus his youthful exuberance and eloquence instantly drew you into his persona. It didn’t matter whether you understood what the heck he was talking about in his debate – you just knew this fellow was hip.
Fast forward four years later to where I’m just as eager of a senior, except this time around I’m in college. However, this time I didn’t find myself thinking about Obama and change after the first debate. That night I went to sleep thinking about Mitt Romney and Big Bird from Sesame Street.
Like Superman rising to defeat his foes, I somehow expected Obama to come into this debate and own it with the same powerful rhetoric he used against McCain. But the nation’s president seemed old and worn down, while the 65-year-old Romney carried himself confidently throughout the debate.
Then he dropped the bomb.
“I’m sorry, Jim [Lehrer, the debate moderator who’s from PBS]. I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m going to stop other things,” Romney said. “I like PBS; I love Big Bird. I actually like you, too. But I’m not going to … keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it.”
How absurd. I mean, you just don’t do that to the characters of Sesame Street. I can’t imagine Oscar the Grouch having to work some retail job to support his living expenses (I know he lives in a garbage can and all, but it is a partially publically fundedgarbage can).
And what of Arthur Read from Arthur? How is he supposed to realize his 16-year-old dream of finally graduating elementary school if Lakewood Elementary School lacks the public funding to properly educate the poor child?
As dastardly as Romney’s comment may have seemed to people in my age demographic, once I started thinking about it more, I realized it doesn’t really harm his campaign.
Anybody who has some passing familiarity with the candidate knows he’s the type who would cut funding to PBS, so this isn’t really a surprise. However, using Big Bird is interesting because of the image it conveys.
I feel like the Republican Party’s conservative stance always has had this disconnect from the more liberal-minded college-aged crowd. Using Big Bird – a character who is impossible to hate – draws attention from the younger crowd because he’s so relatable. Yeah, Romney criticized Big Bird, but it raises conversation, controversy and – most importantly – awareness of his policies.
It’s a good device to use against a president who has such a grasp on the younger audience. Big Bird increases Romney’s relevance because the character’s fame makes him ripe for parody, Twitter debate and memes. College kids love memes nowadays, and the resulting attention is crucial especially when the polls are so close.
The Obama campaign’s satirical ads don’t harm Romney much either. As funny as they are, the ads only work for promotional purposes – a huge no-no for a character who only works to serve the greater good and not further a political agenda. In fact, these ads hurt the Obama campaign, in a sense. With all the criticism against the Democrats, are Big Bird and PBS really the main concern?
Big Bird, whether he likes it or not, drew attention to Romney’s political agenda. This only helps out Romney after coming off such a strong debate. Unfortunately, Obama may not even be able to attack this anti-PBS stance because he has bigger issues on his plate.
It’s strange Big Bird suddenly became a political symbol. Then again, the term “malarkey” actually became a Twitter trending topic last week.