I was watching Sesame Street the other day with the kids, and I had a revelation: one of the characters is a geek. I’m not referring to Maria, who has somehow built a business model around repairing $10 toasters. Nor is it math major Count von Count. No — Oscar the Grouch is the geek. It’s so obvious looking back on it, but it took a while to sink in.
I’m not talking about him being grouchy, which most people consider his signature personality trait. Remember, however, that we’re looking at him through the relentlessly chipper lens of most Sesame Street characters. It is inconceivable to Elmo and Telly that Oscar might simply want to be left alone. He vocally and clearly tells people to stay away (“Scram!”) but they only see his lack of social skills and assume he’s just crabby. I’d be crabby too if no one respected my wishes! Anyway, he’s very social — just look at his abiding friendship with Slimey and Fluffy.
No, what tipped me off to Oscar’s geekiness is his fascination for repurposing castoff technology. What Baby Bear calls “garbage” Oscar calls an opportunity to tinker. Oscar’s phone is rebuilt, his home is salvaged. Ecologically minded, he never buys new because he can always hack together something he dumpster dove for. And last but not least, he even likes science fiction — he reads Trash Gordon serial novels to Slimey every night.
Can you think of any other geeks in kids’ shows?