How Bert and Ernie Let Big Bird Down

February 3, 2014 (Mon)



30 Minus 2 Days of Writing (2014)
Day 3: “Temporary insanity”

My childhood has long since passed, but I’m still carrying around a burden of anger and frustration that I’ve never taken the time to fully articulate. Yet despite all of those years of repression, my silence can no longer be contained. You see, I recently rediscovered the source of these negative feelings when I decided to re-watch the 1985 cinematic classic, Sesame Street Presents: Follow that Bird.

Don’t mistake my meaning, because I love that movie. I’m not saying it’s a bad film. As children’s movies go, it’s actually quite an exceptional film.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this title, the story of Follow that Bird centers on Big Bird’s quest to find the place where he truly belongs. A social worker named Miss Finch convinces Big Bird that he would be far happier living among “his own kind”. Upon Miss Finch’s insistence, Big Bird reluctantly agrees to relocate to Ocean View, Illinois to live with a family called the Dodos. Soon after his arrival in Ocean View, Big Bird realizes that the Dodos make him profoundly unhappy, and so he sets off alone on foot to find his way back to Sesame Street. News of Big Bird’s disappearance makes national headlines, and his friends from Sesame Street band together in search teams and set off down the road hoping to find him.

The plot is a solid, emotional story featuring an ensemble cast full of lovable characters, and strong antagonists who teach children the difference between right and wrong. The main antagonist of the movie, Miss Finch, really does seem to have Big Bird’s best interests in mind, but she is condescending, offensively paternalistic, and a proponent of racial segregation.

Then you have the members of the Dodo family who posses no intellectual curiosity or imagination, who completely disregard Big Bird’s interests and feelings, and who are racially prejudiced against non-birds.

And finally you have the Sleaze Brothers who are … well, sleezy. They’re crooks, and con men, and unconscionable kidnappers.

But here’s where all of my childhood anger and frustration start to creep in. There are two members of the principal Sesame Street cast who, despite their good intentions, very much qualify as antagonists during Big Bird’s journey home. They are selfish, irresponsible, and completely remorseless in their reckless behavior. Worst of all, nobody in the film ever calls them out on this. I am referring, of course, to none other than Bert and Ernie.

When news reaches Sesame Street that Big Bird is walking home from Ocean View, Illinois, Bert and Ernie volunteer to join the search. They team up (naturally), and fly out in what appears to be a WWI-era plane. Sometime during the middle of the movie, Bert and Ernie are flying around, and they actually spot Big Bird walking in a field. Bert instructs Ernie to “do something” to let Big Bird know that they’re flying above him. Ernie, thinking fast, steers the plane low to the ground as if he were about to strafe the field with bullets, and then swoops dangerously close above Big Bird’s head. Unsurprisingly, Big Bird is freaked out, and he throws himself to the ground in fear for his life.

After Ernie pulls the plane back up to a flying altitude, he takes his eye off of Big Bird, turns the plane upside down, and then starts to sing a song about how much fun he’s having flying the plane upside down. Bert, the voice of reason between the two, tells Ernie to stop screwing around. Still, the singing continues, and eventually Bert loses himself in a moment of temporary insanity, and he contributes his own fun-filled verse to the song. Once the song is over, Bert and Ernie realize that they’ve lost sight of Big Bird, and they bicker among themselves while trying to assign blame to each other.

That was Bert and Ernie’s one chance to rescue Big Bird before any real harm came to him, and they blew it miserably. The only thing that Ernie accomplishes with his stupid aerial acrobatics is to terrify Big Bird. Worse still, both Bert and Ernie get completely absorbed in fun and games, and they forget all about their mission to bring Big Bird home until it’s too late. And what happens next after this failed rescue attempt in the field? Big Bird, who is only a six-year-old fledgling, is subsequently kidnapped and imprisoned by the Sleaze brothers, and is forced into slave labor as a singing bird in a carnival attraction.

This is what happens when you screw around and let your friends down during a critical rescue mission.

This is what happens when you screw around and let your friends down during a critical rescue mission. Was that song really worth it, Bert and Ernie?

Seriously, Bert and Ernie, what the hell? You guys had one job.

As the only search and rescue team equipped with an airplane, Bert and Ernie had some of the best chances of finding Big Bird. They came so close to reuniting with Big Bird and bringing him home, but they got sidetracked by pursuing their selfish whims at the worst possible moment. Yes, I admit that “Upside Down World” song is catchy — but it’s all fun and games until you realize that while you were busy singing, your six-year-old friend was being abducted and exploited by bad people.

Screw you, Bert and Ernie. You never showed an ounce of remorse for that incident in the field, and you never took responsibility for all of the harm that came to Big Bird beyond that moment. You didn’t even apologize to Big Bird at the end of the movie for being such monumental fuck-ups. You just stood there and smiled during Big Bird’s homecoming to Sesame Street without saying a word. You know what? Today’s episode has been brought to you by the number 2, and the letter “A”, as in, “Bert and Ernie are Two of the biggest Assholes living on Sesame Street.”

Welcome home, Big Bird. I suggest you choose some better friends.

30 Minus 2 Days of Writing (2014)
A painful exercise in forced inspiration brought to you by
We Work for Cheese


  1. dufus          
    February 3, 2014 at 9:10 am Reply

    Okay,now pause the movie and step away from the VCR. Everything's going to be alright. Nothing here that a year's worth of psychiatrist appointments can't cure.

    • KZ          
      February 6, 2014 at 4:34 am Reply

      I don't have the time or money for proper therapy. Inflicting these thoughts onto you is all the medicine I need. Well, it's the only medicine I can afford, anyway.

  2. Linda          
    February 3, 2014 at 9:14 am Reply

    I have never watched Sesame Street, and am not a fan of kids programs/movies in general. But, having read your review of that particular scene, those two don't seem to be very endearing characters.

    • KZ          
      February 6, 2014 at 4:36 am Reply

      I actually like Bert and Ernie a great deal, but if you ask me, they come off looking really bad in this movie.

  3. laughingmom          
    February 3, 2014 at 9:18 am Reply

    I never trusted those two.

    • KZ          
      February 6, 2014 at 4:38 am Reply

      Especially Bert with his creepy monobrow and those shifty eyes, right? I guess Bert's eyes are really similar to Ernie's, but that monobrow makes all the difference.

  4. MsDarkstar          
    February 3, 2014 at 9:19 am Reply

    Thoughtful and insightful review of a traumatizing childhood classic!

    • KZ          
      February 6, 2014 at 4:39 am Reply

      Thank you, Ms. Darkstar! This stuff has been bugging me for years, so I've had a long time to think it all through.

  5. Frank Lee Meidere          
    February 3, 2014 at 10:06 am Reply

    That scene you describe with the plane buzzing someone in a field sounds familiar. Was there a later scene where Big Bird is hanging from Mount Rushmore? Because if so, I think I saw that film.

    • KZ          
      February 6, 2014 at 4:43 am Reply

      I'm ashamed to admit that I never caught that reference until you pointed it out, Frank. Boom Boom's comment helped me fill in the blanks.

      You're right, the scene from Follow that Bird is an homage to a North by Northwest. I've never seen that movie. I really need to brush up on my classic cinema.

  6. ReformingGeek          
    February 3, 2014 at 11:18 am Reply

    I can see this weights heavily on your mind. I think there is probably a pill for that. The last time I saw Big Bird he was being served for Thanksgiving dinner. I think we came blame Bert and Ernie for that.

    • KZ          
      February 6, 2014 at 4:44 am Reply

      You had to go and kick me right in the childhood with that one, didn't you? ;_;

  7. Malisa          
    February 3, 2014 at 11:36 am Reply

    You are serious about this, aren't you? A very well-written piece. The whole read was worth it just to come up this line:
    "Today’s episode has been brought to you by the number 2, and the letter “A”, as in, “Bert and Ernie are Two of the biggest Assholes living on Sesame Street.”

    Friggin' hilarious!

    • KZ          
      February 6, 2014 at 4:45 am Reply

      Dead serious. I get worked up over inconsequential gripes. And thank you for your kind words. :)

  8. Diana Mueller          
    February 3, 2014 at 1:15 pm Reply

    I think you might be too harsh. I mean, how old are Bert and Ernie? What if they are also 6 year olds? I would think that letting a 6 year old take the blame for another child's abduction, imprisonment and forced labor would scar him horrendously. And what about the adults of Sesame Street?? Even if Bert and Ernie are adults, the real adults (such as Gordon and Maria) know that Bert and Ernie are easily distracted and don't make the best decisions, yet they still allowed them to go out ON THEIR OWN. I think it's pretty miraculous that Bert and Ernie didn't also get abducted.

    • KZ          
      February 6, 2014 at 4:46 am Reply

      If Bert and Ernie are flying a plane, then they have to be older than six. Also, have you heard those guys' speaking voices? They both hit puberty a long time ago.

  9. Boom Boom          
    February 3, 2014 at 2:40 pm Reply

    Those rat bastards! Scaring the crap out of Big Bird and then leaving him to his own defenses while they break into song. Outrageous!

    (And Frank's right... shades of North by Northwest! Scary!)

    • KZ          
      February 6, 2014 at 4:47 am Reply

      Boom Boom, I am so thankful for this comment. Without it, I would have never understood what the heck Frank was talking about with his North by Northwest reference.

  10. Tami Von Zalez          
    February 3, 2014 at 3:36 pm Reply

    Sounds like Bert and Ernie might have been playing a little grab ass too.

    • KZ          
      February 6, 2014 at 4:48 am Reply

      Haha we were *this* close to having a conversation about Bert and Ernie without referencing that!

  11. Nicky          
    February 3, 2014 at 5:59 pm Reply

    What Diana said.

    You know, I really like Diana. I think I'm just going to agree with all of her comments for the rest of the challenge. I might even try to convince her to start her own blog. :-)

    • KZ          
      February 6, 2014 at 4:50 am Reply

      Oh, Nicky. You're always the naysayer. It's a shame that you and Diana are always so wrong on every point.

  12. Katherine          
    February 3, 2014 at 7:59 pm Reply


    I loved the whole thing. Somehow I missed this movie... not sure how... but your wise and wonderful words have me laughing still..

    Screw you Bert and Ernie!

    • KZ          
      February 6, 2014 at 4:52 am Reply

      Thanks, Katherine! This scene seriously pissed me off when I was a kid. As you can tell, it still bothers me to this day. I'm glad I finally had the chance to get this off my chest. It's just an added bonus that happened to enjoy it. Thanks again. :)

  13. P.J.          
    February 12, 2014 at 12:40 pm Reply

    I would like to thank you because, now, just by mentioning Sesame Street, I have the original theme stuck in my head and it's playing over and over and over.

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