Every year when I go to visit my parents during the Christmas season we end up watching The Muppets Family Christmas. It has been an interesting saga over the years because my father tried to tape it from TV a long time ago and the attempt ended with some bumps and oopses - several key scenes are missing due to trying to cut out the commercials. You hear that younguns? Back in my day we used VCRs to tape from TV, and we liked it! Since then several other versions have been purchased and we still watch the show even though the presentation is different in each version. It is a performance laden with memories and emotions from a time long past.
This year I watched it with different eyes and was saddened. I speak about the scene where Burt and Ernie are delivering Twas The Night Before Christmas dressed up as Mama and Papa. Burt lost the toss so he had to dress up as Mama and was completely humiliated by the experience - not only was he desperate to avoid making an appearance but the audience laughed at him uproariously when he did come out. It twists inside me that even though Sesame Street is so often progressive they felt it was obvious that a man wearing women's clothing was a despicable creature that everyone would laugh at. After all, who would want to be like a woman? Surely no one with a choice would tolerate such a thing.
I cannot paint the show with a blackened brush without getting it all over myself of course. I laughed at Burt year after year as he desperately tried to avoid the shame of being in clothes designed for a woman; I am as guilty as anyone. It is yet another event in the saga of my life where I wake up and realize what terrible things I have done, what wrongheaded beliefs I have held, what foolishness I have committed. Next time I watch Muppets Family Christmas I will take that particular scene out, if only in my head. I will substitute a scene where Burt strides confidently onto the stage and stares down the audience with a steely gaze instead, certain that his friends and colleagues would never shame him for how he dresses, gender conforming or not.