‘Sesame Street’ Characters Have Conquered Social Media

Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/Getty
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Last month, Big Bird flew into a bit of an existential crisis: A humorously edited photo revealed that the usually sizable squawker was suddenly small. (How appropriate that Big Bird shared his dilemma on X, which, much like the yellow muppet himself, is no longer the big, beautiful bird it used to be.) Big Bird tweeted through it, and then, after seven days and seven nights, came a triumph of biblical proportions. He rose (in stature) again. Who among us could have guessed that Big Bird’s journey was just the beginning of a full-on Sesame Street social media takeover?

In the wake of Big Bird’s 15 minutes of internet fame, many of his friends—including Elmo, Grover, and the Cookie Monster—have been going viral with their own posts on X. Even more interesting is the nature of these newer viral moments. Big Bird’s X takeover came with a specific, days-long story arc, but his friends’ posts are pretty basic expressions of love and support. It’s proof positive that while we all might age out of Sesame Street eventually, none of us ever leave it fully behind us.

Everything is absolutely not A-OK in the year of our lord 2024, and that might be precisely why these Sesame Street characters keep attracting eyeballs on X. Even in the cynical dumpster fire that is X, the playful purity in these posts manages to cut through our hardened exteriors. The world is on fire, and people are exhausted and, in many cases, drowning in debt. But still, life never pauses. Given that awful, very adult truth, isn’t there a strange, surreal, bittersweet comfort in seeing Cookie Monster wish us all a happy Valentine’s Day—whether we have a partner or not?

To be clear, Sesame Street is no stranger to going viral. The show’s pop-culture parodies have long been the stuff of legends; just two years ago, no one could stop talking about Elmo’s deeply relatable feud with his pet rock. Several Sesame Street characters have official accounts with hundreds of thousands of followers, and their posts frequently attract more than 1,000 “likes” apiece. Still, when a ticklish little guy named Elmo checked in to ask, “How is everybody doing?” he unleashed the floodgates in an unprecedented way, setting loose waves and waves of ambient trauma.

Responses to Elmo’s X post varied, but the general tenor was absolute, soul-deadened dread. As one X user put it, “Not good, Elmo, not good.”

Many of the replies were genuinely funny memes, but at the same time, there seemed to be an acknowledgment of a collective truth: these were thousands of despondent inner children confessing to an old friend that in reality, things just don’t seem to be going that great in the grown-up world. I mean, you know things are bad when a suicide hotline is responding to a muppet. Snarky as most of them might have been, the tsunami of bummer replies still felt like confirmation that Elmo had touched a deep wound in countless grown-up kids.

Speaking with Today, the writer behind Elmo’s X account, Christina Vittas, observed that when a warm, familiar presence like Elmo checks in on you, “You’re going to be a little more honest, because you know a caring friend is listening and genuinely wants to know.” As she saw it, “The foundation of friendship Elmo has with the world really resonated.”

Faced with thousands of responses, Elmo posted a sweet follow-up message. “Wow!” the post reads, “Elmo is glad he asked! Elmo learned that it is important to ask a friend how they are doing. Elmo will check in again soon, friends! Elmo loves you.” His friend Grover also chimed in: “I, Grover, am here to be a good listener whenever you need it! #EmotionalWellBeing.” Cookie Monster was on board to help as well. “Me here to talk it out whenever you want. Me will also supply cookies,” he wrote, adding in the same hashtag alongside a cookie and heart emoji. Even Oscar the Grouch offered his condolences to the existentially plagued masses. “I’m not great at listening to others share their big feelings,” the trash monster wrote, “but my worm Slimey is. You should talk with him if you ever need to chat.”

Each of the posts received tens of thousands of “likes.” As one amused observer put it, “Something tells me you all had an urgent ‘all hands on deck’ morning meeting on the street.”

Then, Joe Biden entered the chat.

“I know how hard it is some days to sweep the clouds away and get to sunnier days,” Biden wrote. “Our friend Elmo is right: We have to be there for each other, offer our help to a neighbor in need, and above all else, ask for help when we need it. Even though it's hard, you're never alone.”

Whenever a politician attempts to capitalize on the zeitgeist, they threaten to ruin our good time, and the polarization that followed Biden’s tweet is a perfect example of that phenomenon. There we all were, sitting on a collective rainbow mat and commiserating with our buddy Elmo about our psychological torment, and one of the most powerful grown-ups in the world had to barge in on us. Some users called the president out for co-opting a heartwarming Sesame Street tweet as U.S. weapons continue to massacre children in Gaza; meanwhile, right-wingers did their thing and posted the usual potshots. From there, the party was pretty much over for that post.

Still, nothing can stop Sesame Street characters from inspiring both joy and, well, a lot of honesty. Elmo’s birthday prompted some celebration on Feb. 3, and it seems safe to say that all of the Sesame Street gang will continue to post light-hearted, encouraging messages for their fans of all ages. Beyond Cookie Monster’s sugary Valentine’s Day salutation, Grover’s latest viral triumph stands out the most. “As a news reporter, I always do my research before I break a story,” the blue muppet wrote. “I am confident to report that you are so special and amazing!”

Some readers responded with appreciation, while others bemoaned Grover’s new career path. Meanwhile, those who work in the journalism world couldn’t help but crack jokes about the bleak state of media. “grover has been laid off without severance despite being part of his paper’s bargaining unit,” The Washington Post’s Angel Mendoza posted on X. “he found out this morning while at the capitol via a push alert from the new york times.”

In these absurd and confusing times, there’s a certain kind of poetry in realizing that innocent posts from a children’s show can double as a kind of social barometer—even if some of the responses are less than encouraging. On some days, we’re sweepin’ the clouds away, and on others, we’re all just standing out in the rain, cracking jokes about what it feels like to be soaking wet.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

Get the Daily Beast's biggest scoops and scandals delivered right to your inbox. Sign up now.

Stay informed and gain unlimited access to the Daily Beast's unmatched reporting. Subscribe now.