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Unless you've been living under a rock for the last two decades, there's been an ongoing beef on the streets of "Sesame Street," that is finally hitting critical mass. Elmo, the beloved three-and-a-half-year-old red muppet monster has been thrust into the non-elementary aged spotlight, but this time it's not for a massive toy craze or to promote his new Not-Too-Late Show, but because the world has finally become privy to a feud that makes Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel look like besties. Since 1999, Elmo has had a sworn enemy, the best friend of his best friend Zoe: Rocco the rock.
In a world where puppets and humans seamlessly interact, it's important to note that Rocco is not a cute little rock puppet with anthropomorphic eyes and a big personality coming from one of the brilliant puppeteers. No, Rocco is, as Elmo says, "Just a rock, Zoe." Rocco first came aboard to torment Elmo in the episode "Zoe's Pet Rock, Rocco," and his life has never been the same. Zoe loves her pet rock, and much like a child demanding a piece of birthday cake be set aside for an imaginary friend, she tries her best to incorporate Rocco into the lives of her neighbors on Sesame Street, whether they like him or not. Zoe sees Rocco as a fully fledged companion, but Elmo, always the realist, sees him for what he is ... a f***ing rock.
Elmo Is Calling Out Injustice
Elmo has been the star of a number of viral TikTok trends since late 2021, but after a clip from the 2005 episode "Elmo Feels He's Treated Unfairly by Rocco" crossed over to Twitter, the video went viral once again, featuring Elmo absolutely losing it over Rocco's claim to an oatmeal raisin cookie. Elmo wants the cookie, but his friends Zoe and Gabi tell him that the cookie belongs to Rocco, and therefore he can't have it. Elmo finds this to be a grave injustice and snaps in an explosion of big emotions.
I've seen people criticize Elmo's reaction in this situation, with many accusing him of being selfish. First of all, Elmo is not even four years old, and he's doing his best to communicate why he feels scorned. If this were just a random tantrum, it'd be one thing, but this is not an isolated incident, of Rocco receiving preferential treatment. Just to name a few situations, Rocco has gotten a turn on the swing set before him, he's stepped on Elmo's lines when giving the number of the day, Elmo has been required to find a gift for Rocco's birthday, and he's even been tasked with joining Zoe on a search and rescue mission when Rocco goes missing. Without context, sure, Elmo looks like he's being a brat, but what the clip doesn't show is Elmo explaining that he's been kind and sharing with Rocco all day, and those actions have not been reciprocated.
What Is Good For Zoe Isn't Always Good For Elmo
Rocco is more than just a pet rock to Zoe, in fact, we could probably classify him as an emotional support rock. Elmo is fully aware of the importance Rocco has in Zoe's life, which is why he's willing to put up with so much of Rocco's shenanigans, no matter how much it irritates him. But again, he's a toddler, and everyone has a breaking point. While it's wonderful that Zoe has something that brings her so much comfort, it's unfair to demand that Elmo and everyone else on Sesame Street have the same relationship with Rocco. "Sesame Street" has always been great at meeting kids at their level, and the longstanding feud with Elmo and Rocco is important for kids to see.
The reality is, sometimes in life we're forced to share space or interact with people that we find absolutely insufferable, and it's okay to have those feelings. We don't have to meet others with kindness that don't show it to us, and it's okay to have complicated feelings about caring deeply about a friend and absolutely despising their friend. More importantly, it's okay to vocalize feelings of injustice. Children are far more receptive than we give them credit for being, but they're taught to stay quiet, stop crying, and "get over it" without being given much of an explanation as to why. Elmo is teaching children to stand up for themselves when faced with adversity, and in turn, Zoe is learning the hard reality that not everyone is going to like the same things you like.
I Stand With Elmo
Elmo is right, and he's always been right. It's okay for Zoe to have fun by playing pretend with Rocco, but remembering that we still need to find a balance between reality and fantasy is just as important. Elmo graciously allowed Zoe and Rocco to join his playdate with Gabi, something he did not have to do, and Zoe allowed Rocco to completely take over the plans. Elmo was more than entitled to having these big feelings, and while we never want someone to be pushed to the point of losing their cool, sometimes it happens, and the next step is to resolve the conflict.
Since the videos have resurfaced, Elmo took to Twitter to clear the air and clarify that Elmo and Zoe are still best friends and love each other, but that Rocco could, metaphorically speaking, kick rocks. I'm so proud of Elmo for holding himself accountable for what could be perceived as bad behavior, but for holding firm on the boundary he's set that he's not willing to talk about Rocco. He and Zoe are getting better at practicing sharing, but Rocco still has a lot of work to do. Elmo followed up his statement with a question about whether or not anyone has ever seen a rock eat a cookie, and the King of Public Beefs himself, The Rock, made sure to clarify for Elmo.
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