Aaron R. Davis
Boy, this makes me feel queasy and almost nauseous to talk about. But I’ve got to talk about the accusations and the lawsuits that have been coming up for weeks now. I get queasy when something bad happens to children, and since I really don’t want to talk about what else happened to children this week (because it all boils down to me saying “fuck” a lot and then being unable to have a coherent argument with people who think more potential murder weapons on the street is a great solution to preventing more murders because fuck those people, I don’t want to engage with them), we’re going to talk about you instead.
Kevin, I’m very disappointed in you.
Weeks ago, a young man came forward and said that you, the performer of Elmo and the man with the coolest job title in history — “Muppet Captain” — had had sex with him when he was a teenager. I don’t know the circumstances of it — I don’t want to know — but I do know that having sex, consensual or not, with a minor is a crime. Then the accuser recanted, then recanted his recantation because of public reaction. Lots of people wondered if it was just a jilted former lover looking for a payoff, but I didn’t want to talk about the possibility, because as a teacher I can tell you that any allegation has to be taken seriously and investigated. You don’t take a chance where the safety of children is concerned.
Sure, no one wanted to think about the guy who’s been performing Elmo for decades being a child predator because, good god, how could anyone want to think that? Didn’t we all see Being Elmo last year and decide that you were magic and pretty much the heir to Jim Henson himself? (A movie that, honestly, no one will ever be able to watch again, because we’ll all look at how you like to make yourself available to young potential puppeteers, and most of us will wonder if this is how you cruised potential victims. Which apparently it is.)
I know we’re all innocent until proven guilty. I wanted you to be innocent until proven guilty. But then a second young man came forward. The cynical part of me said, “Okay, he’s seen the potential for a payout, he wants money, too.” But then there was a third young man. And now a fourth. And before the fourth, there were rumors of others. And you know what they say about smoke and its proximity to fire.
And now I have to wonder if Kevin Clash, a man I personally admired, one of the Muppeteers who got to work with Jim Henson himself, my hero, surrounded himself with children in order to have sex with those children.
There’s no other way to put it. None of us like facing up to the idea that child molesters are oftentimes charming and inspiring and good with children, because we all have to wonder if they went wrong somewhere, or if they became that way because it brings the prey within closer reach.
And I’m not the victim here, obviously. There are real, quantifiable victims here, and I’m not one of them. But I still feel this massive sense of betrayal. When I was a kid, I wanted to work with the Muppets. You actually got to. You got to work with Jim Henson and Frank Oz and Richard Hunt and Jerry Nelson and Dave Goelz and Steve Whitmire and Fran Brill and Carroll Spinney and Marty Robinson and the greatest puppeteers and the most special magicians of my lifetime. You did what few have done and created a character beloved by generations. Multiple generations. How could anyone get to work with Jim Henson and become part of his legacy and carry on his ideals … and do this? Even if in some way you were having informed consensual sex with people capable of making their own decisions, how could you put yourself in a position where this was even a possibility, knowing what you represent?
Let’s talk about those generations who love Elmo.
The other day, I was at Target and looking around that aisle with the Christmas candy. There was a little girl in a shopping cart, and she waved at me. I waved back. She said “Hiiiii” in that way very young children have. I looked at her mother to make sure I wasn’t coming off as creepy or threatening; she just smiled and chuckled, and I said “Hi.” Then the little girl said “hlma.” I gave her a confused look, and she pointed at her jacket and said “hlma.” She was wearing a Sesame Street jacket with Elmo on it. She was trying to say “Elmo.” She was extremely little; it’s just that Elmo is like Mickey Mouse now and kids seem to have inborn knowledge of this character. Her mother just laughed. “She loves Elmo,” she shrugged, smiling.
Kids love Elmo. They adore Elmo.
And that, sir, is what you’ve tainted in the world. And whatever the truth, whenever anyone talks about Kevin Clash or Elmo or Sesame Street in the future, there will always be the memory of this. The accusations are, sadly, enough.
That free, childish joy in Elmo is what you’ve taken away from every child and many adults, and for that, I will never forgive you.
Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.