Elmo: Jungian Archetype?

Posted by jdg | Wednesday, July 26, 2006 |

There are a couple boxes of pampers stacked next to Juniper's crib. Last Sunday she woke up from her nap and played sweetly in her crib for a few minutes. She hopped over to the diaper boxes and pointed directly at a little picture of Elmo on the box, and said, clear as anything: "Elmo."

"Holy fuck Wood, did you hear that?"


"She just said E-L-M-O."

"She did?"

"Have you been letting her watch Sesame Street while I'm at work like that woman you know from playgroup whose German husband doesn't want their kid watching TV but she lets the kid watch it all day anyway?"

"No, I swear. She's never seen Elmo on television or anywhere else as far as I know."

"Don't say that name, you'll encourage her."

"Where did she learn it?" asked Wood.

"Elmo!" said Juniper. "Elmo, Elmo, Elmo."

Don't get me wrong, I harbored no illusions that Juniper wouldn't be stricken with inevitable adoration for that self-narrating mangy-red-haired orange-proboscised muppet. One could easier cheat the grim reaper than avoid the dreaded Elmo. Still, I didn't expect it so soon. Wood and I sat around trying to figure out where she could have learned it:

"When she was about eight months old I let her hold an Elmo doll that my secretary has in her cubicle," I offered.

"I think there might be an Elmo book on the shelf in the YMCA's daycare," Wood speculated. "I know they read her a Barney book once."

The thing is, I don't really think anyone needed to tell her who he was. Elmo has simply found his way into the collective unconscious. Children are now born knowing his name; they just wait for their lips and tongues to be capable of saying it.