As fleeting as childhood — that's how enduring Muppet heroes aim to be. Despite the personal artistry involved, a Muppet character is meant to transcend the human factor. Or, as the Sesame Workshop statement noted on Monday, "Elmo is bigger than any one person."
Now here's one more question kids won't bother to ask: "Can Kevin Clash continue to star as a Muppet 3-year-old now that the world knows he is gay?"
The only reasonable answer to this non-question would be, Why not? "Sesame Street" is a tolerant place, just as are, increasingly, the real-life streets this show prepares its young audience for.
Muppets have even been drawn into the gay rights movement. Remember, an online petition not long ago called for the marriage of Muppet flat-mates Bert and Ernie.
These chums' sexuality had long been debated by grown-ups with too much time on their hands when, last summer, matrimony was promoted as a way to make gay and lesbian kids who watch the show feel better about themselves. (The marriage could happen, its advocates reasoned, since Sesame Street is theoretically in New York, where gay marriage had just become legal.)
The spirited chatter spurred Sesame Workshop to issue a statement declaring that Bert and Ernie are just good friends created to teach preschoolers that people can be friends with — or, at least, accept — those different from themselves. And oh, by the way (the statement added), Bert and Ernie "remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation."
They continue to be puppets and good friends today.
Meanwhile, to judge from Twitter, Elmo was still on many people's minds Wednesday. Posted comments included lots of wisecracks, including jokes tying Elmo to the current real-life scandal of Gen. David Petraeus. Others expressed relief that Clash had been cleared.
Kids, of course, didn't care or even notice. They love Elmo now the same as ever, this character they know as a fellow child and kindred spirit. And all the better that he's fuzzy and red.
EDITOR'S NOTE — Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at fmoore(at)ap.org and at http://www.twitter.com/tvfrazier