Why are we mad at Big Bird?

Sal Iovino, Opinions Co-Editor

After more than 5 decades on television, Big Bird has become a TV icon, namely for his time on Sesame Street. However, a life in the spotlight can only go unblemished for so long, and recently our large, feathered friend is finally having his reckoning. On November 6th, Big Bird took to Twitter to announce that he received the COVID-19 vaccine, and was currently experiencing a slightly sore wing. Big Bird followed up his controversial take by encouraging others to get the vaccine, which was met with a series of mixed reactions. Some were glad to hear from the Sesame Street favorite, retweeting with positive messages and fun quotes from their children. Conservative Twitter, however, immediately took to criticizing Big Bird’s leftist rhetoric, claiming that the support for the vaccine was an attempt to indoctrinate young people through the Sesame Street character. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas was particularly outspoken about Big Bird’s support for the vaccine, tweeting “Government propaganda… for your 5 year old!”

This seems to be a new level of nonsensical for the far-right: their somewhat valid frustrations about politics and Democrats have now shifted from actual people to a fictional bird. Ted Cruz surely has far more important things to address than Big Bird’s opinions about the vaccine, yet for some reason, it is colonizing his time, as well as the time of major media outlets. This is avoidance at its finest hour; people distracting themselves from actual current events with what was meant to be a fun and informative tweet by a fictional TV character. Conservative outlets and activists try to do nothing but incite conflict and dissent amongst people by framing a childhood character as a source of propaganda and negative influence on America’s children.

But why take this stance? Why avoid the actual problems of the world and the conflicts that are actively diminishing people’s livelihoods? To put it simply, life is easier that way. As a result of Biden’s presidency, far-right conspiracists have no true leader, leading to erratic and fragmented claims about a variety of popular culture influences. Whether it’s TV shows becoming “too progressive” with things like the introduction of gay characters, or children’s literature “forcing” progressive values onto young people, these great extrapolations of the truth are just another attempt to keep things the way they once were. Beginning with the Trump administration’s hyperfixation on not letting society become too “leftist,” now appears to give the far-right a license to maintain both “American values” and “tradition”, two things the Democrats have been labeled as wanting to destroy through progressivism.

In reality, no one cares that Big Bird is vaccinated. Why? Because he is a fictional television show character. 

Big Bird is not a real person, and Big Bird has no political agenda. Just like the plot to destroy “American values”, Big Bird’s plan to indoctrinate America’s youth down a leftist pipeline`is an exaggeration by conservatives in an attempt to claim America’s middle-ground voters. After losing the moderate vote in the 2020 presidential election, conservatives have been hell-bent on portraying themselves as the “voice of reason” for the American people, and chalking up all progressive rhetoric to leftist extremism. Progressive views aren’t extreme, they’re progressive, and realistically, they often can contain the nuance of a well-researched opinion. Education and academics are built entirely around progress and gaining new understandings of the world. A decade ago, a vaccine produced as quickly as the COVID-19 vaccines would have been applauded by all, and seen as a miracle of scientific progress that showed what collaboration in the medical community could produce. Today, that same scientific miracle is seen as a political tool, and its divisiveness is risking peoples’ health and lives.

To put it simply, Big Bird’s Twitter backlash is an obvious sign that people just have far too much time on their hands. There is no reason why major media outlets, senators, and thousands of other people should be spending hours going back and forth about the social implications of a tweet from a fictional bird. There are very real problems to address in the US today, food insecurity, homelessness, worker’s rights and equality, yet we’ve developed a taste for the dramatic, and we now opt to create problems that are entirely in our heads. This was a waste of time, sure, but also representative of a larger trend in politics as of late. Turning to conspiracy in the wake of actual problems — like getting everyone vaccinated — is just going to continue to further widen the current political divide, and eventually our real problems will grow too large to actually resolve.

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