Sesame Needs Some Street Knowledge

Updated information below 05/30/2018

Sesame Workshop is trying to sue STX for implying a connection between The Happytime Murders and the Sesame Street IP. The tagline in question, “No. Sesame. All street.” is part of an R-Rated trailer for the film mentioned above, and appears on print materials.

Here’s the trailer to pass the time (warning: EXTREMELY NSFW, and most social-settings)

My question for Sesame Workshop is this: “Who are you worried about being confused??”

Hide Yo’ Kids

Each of the trailers on Youtube is preceded by the red viewer-warning screen to warn viewers of the NSFW-ness of what they’re about to see. Most of them are titled “Red Band” or “Restricted” in the results. The tagline in question doesn’t hit until a good minute in, after two sexual propositions to the main character, and a pair of puppet-deaths. If any parent has their Sesame-Street aged child asking to see this movie they need to 1) get a net-nanny, 2) applaud their child on their reading comprehension and 3) figure out their lives for letting this slip by them.

This tagline does appear on print material, which does provide a wrinkle for STX and a case for Sesame Workshop. The latter can argue that the association can influence a younger-than-appropriate audience. The poster isn’t offensive though, so that may be an argument hard-won for Sesame Workshop. It should be stated that the presentation and style of promotional material in no way aims to children directly. I would argue that some Deadpool 2 posters look more appealing to children.

The Jim Henson Company isn’t worried that three of their G-Rated movies are titled in the first 15 seconds of the trailer. Of course, they’re helping make this movie. It doesn’t matter that the association happens long before any objective material is shown. They’re in on the joke. It may be a crass and crude joke, but it’s a joke none-the-less. Perhaps “Sesame Street” needs an episode about laughing at yourself.

Parody, the Sincerest Form of Flattery

Parody falls firmly in the US Fair Use laws. Under that assumption, the charges won’t make it very far. STX, for their part, has refused to simply edit the two blurbs. I don’t fault them. It’s funny. Plus, there was plenty of nightmare-inducing imagery in old Sesame Street anyway. Anyone who remembers that rubber-band face knows what I’m talking about. I blame that, exclusively, for poor grades early in life.

I’m sure we’ll hear soon what will come of this. If I were a betting man, I wouldn’t put anything behind Sesame Workshop getting the W. Sesame Workshop has to understand what the laws state. They did, after all, sing all about it already.

© Sesame Workshop
© Sesame Workshop

The Happytime Murders opens in theatres on August 17, 2018. Directed by Brian Henson and starring Melissa McCarthy and Joel McHale.

It looks like this is over as quickly as it began, via US District Judge Vernon Broderick has ruled that Sesame Workshop “hadn’t demonstrated that moviegoers were confused or that sponsors or parents were complaining” in regards to the tagline.



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