Episode 48: One Word… Plastics.

The overthinkers tackle animated movies, college students, ethnic stereotyping, and sesame street.

Matthew Wrather hosts as he, Matthew Belinkie, Peter Fenzel, Mark Lee, and John Perich reveal their favorite animated movies, give advice to a college student, debate tokenism and ethnic stereotyping, and think back to the good old days of Sesame Street.

In this episode, we also lay out a challenge for your mom.

Tell us what you think! Email us or call 20-EAT-LOG-01—that’s (203) 285-6401. If you haven’t yet, take the very short survey! And… spread the overthinking by forwarding this episode to a friend.

Download Episode 48 (MP3)

11 Comments on “Episode 48: One Word… Plastics.”

  1. Daniel #

    hey, it’s Daniel from Brisbane again.

    You wanted to know about young listeners. I started listening in high school, soon after i turned 16. i am now 17 and in uni, but i am underage and thought you’d be interested to know.


  2. Sylvia #

    Friar Tuck was a badger, and Prince John and King Richard were lions voiced by Peter Ustinov.

    Little John was a bear and he was voiced by the same guy who did Baloo.

    The credits tell you what the animals are.


  3. Sylvia #

    And more:
    Fantasia had the exploding volcano with Rite of Spring as well as Beethoven’s Fifth.

    The Rite of Spring sequence also terrified me when I was 3 as did the Night on Bald Mountain sequence.

    Fantasia 2000 had the whales sequence with Pines of Rome.

    K. I’ll stop nitpicking and listen to the podcast now.


  4. Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

    @Sylvia – We’re both half wrong. You’re right that Rite of Spring WAS in the original. The sequence I was thinking of from Fantasia 2000 was The Firebird:
    For some reason, Disney animators love to combine Stravinsky and volcanoes.

    However, Beethoven’s Fifth IS from Fantasia 2000, not the original.

    You should always feel free to nitpick here. We love it.


  5. Sylvia #

    Hey Matthew,

    What was the Beethoven’s Fifth sequence? Oh right, the ‘arty’ opening sequence that was supposed to evoke the Bach fugue string sequence from the first one. I’m going to go out on a limb and say not memorable.

    And I may have blocked the Firebird sequence from memory, but then I’m not a Stravinksy fan. I just remember the nymph making everything green again. Awww. :-D


  6. Gab #

    I LOVED _The Great Mouse Detective_. Heck, I still do. I used to pretend to be the singer mouse in the night club. Anyhoo, great pics from all of you. My fall-back animated movie was _The Last Unicorn_. (About _Robin Hood_: Prince John was a scraggly lion so that his brother, King Richard -THE LIONHEART- could be a burly one. And I’m assuming Robin -and thus Marion- was a fox because of how clever he was.)

    -I thought _The Rescuers Down Under_ was better than _The Rescuers_. And _Fantasia 2000_ was great. My only beef is my favorite movement (in its entirety- the end of the last one is, of course, spectacular) from “Pines of Rome” wasn’t used.

    -A bit of advice for college students: Both socially and academically, try new things. Join a club for something you aren’t certain about; enroll in a class with a topic you’re curious but know nothing about. If you don’t like it, drop it and try something else.

    And a more academic bit, too, is to take advantage of anything the professors offer- go to their offices as often as you can, *especially* if you need help with an assignment, but not exclusively. If you make the impression that you’re dedicated, they’ll appreciate that much more than any thoughts of you being stupid or something. They’re much more likely to give you some grace if you screw up, or a good letter of recommendation for something later on. And they may end up liking you enough to take you for beers or something. ;)

    -I do agree about Pixar not having female or minority leads. I think race is the easiest “other” category in film because it’s the most visual. Writers don’t have to put into the script of a commercial that a woman is Asian-American- she could have no lines and you could tell. Whereas if you had, say, a Christian, a Muslim, and a Jew all together but all were white (or any other race), one would have no idea. Or if they came from different socio-economic backgrounds. In movies, it’s of course easier to get information, since it can be written into the script. But explaining the background of a character through dialogue takes time away from plot-advancing dialogue, so racial minorities are used more often. That’s my take on it, anyway. I’d like to see a movie about a group of friends with all sorts of religious and socio-economic backgrounds that just shows it like it is and lets the audience figure it out without being pounded over the head with the sledgehammer of un-subtlety.


  7. S. #

    Hey Podcasters-

    Part of what was so fantastic about the older Sesame Street was that it tried to teach kids how to reason and think. Around 2005 the subject matter for the new segments of the show transformed mostly into suggestions on how to act, (This was primarily in response to the obesity crisis, and resulted into the uproar over the rumor that Cookie Monster was going on a diet). I don’t think that it is a bad thing to want to improve diet and exercise habits, but it would be awesome if the ability to think was emphasized even before college.
    So, good advice for young listeners.

    Any ideas on why there was such an uproar over the Cookie Monster on a diet thing? Was it just nostalgia?


  8. fenzel #

    I think it’s more than nostalgia. It’s an issue of control and intrusiveness in popular culture.

    People weren’t upset because of their kids or on behalf of their kids, they were upset on behalf of themselves.

    Older people like Cookie Monster because they identify with him – they find something honest in him. After all, people do like cookies, and it doesn’t tend to be with the most high-brow part of their personality.

    Admonishing, punishing, and forcibly converting cookie monster to not eat cookies, feels, by extension, like a personal intrusion or condemnation. It’s like burning someone in effigy – you are symbolically exercising dominance over them by subjecting representative images to humiliation or violence.

    And cookie monster being made to go on a diet is humiliating, because cookie monster is a fantasy.

    People require emotional validation, and negging their emotions is a great way to make enemies. Telling them they aren’t allowed to feel the way they want to feel? Actually ordering it? That sort of thing can start wars, no joke (not over cookie monster, but over other things).

    People take their emotions and personal symbols – and their freedom to feel the way they want to about them – very seriously. It’s an integral part of how the identity relates to the world.

    The fact that it’s a beloved childhood memory that is not being expunged, claimed to be harmful, converted to the opposite of what it once was –

    It feels like brainwashing and an intrusion on human dignity.

    You are also calling most of your previous audience, who likes cookie monster, fat, and saying they need to go on a diet, which is not a nice thing to do. It’s a nice thing to _promote_, but there are right ways and wrong ways.

    And while of course the stakes were low, I find it phenomenally inappropriate and offensive.

    Sesame Street would have been hard-pressed to come up with anything more insulting, offensive and hurtful.


  9. Gab #

    I also see the Cookie Question as a denied sense of vicarious living. Think of Cookie Monster as symbolic of every person’s Id and the cookies as symbolic of what we desire. By watching him get what he wants every time, even though we always knew (not so) deep down that it wasn’t good for him, we felt a sense of removed satisfaction, as if our own desires for things we have limited to no access to were being fulfilled. No matter how much we got denied what we craved, there was comfort in knowing that at least Cookie Monster got his damned cookies- and then some, when he’d go so far as to eat anything shaped like a circle and still feel satisfaction. In fact, that confusing of cookie v. somethingelse is a reflection of our own displacement and how what we, the viewers, wanted wasn’t cookies per say. Anyhoo, now that cookies are just a “sometimes” food, what else is there to believe in? It’s a loss of an outlet we had relied on since we were little ones. So yes, Fenzel, it’s totally hurtful, and in even more ways than you already (and so eloquently, might I add) suggest, because, as you allude to, it’s deeply personal.

    Here’s what Stephen Colbert had to say, and with the Monster himself, nonetheless. Ahem.



  10. Wordsworth #

    Great podcast – lots to ponder and Overthink. Not to mention, the shout out to Australia was an added bonus.

    There were a whole lot of really interesting issues raised, most of which I won’t discuss for fear of unleashing a frighteningly epic essay, but I’ll just mention them quickly.

    1. The cultural prejudice against abstinence. You only mentioned it in passing, and sometimes it’s hard to tell how seriously you guys say things, but it pressed one of the big red buttons as far as I’m concerned. The portrayal of those that defer sex to beless than, uptight or socially inept really irks me. If someone is a virgin, it is a disease that must be cured as soon as possible. Obviously, there are films that blatantly purport this like THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN but I was surprised when recently watching a DOCTOR WHO episode (“The Impossible Planet”) where ‘the virgin’ was listed as being one character’s primary weakness, amongst the rest of the cast’s ‘the lost little girl’ and the man ‘taunted by the eyes of his wife’, etc/.

    2. The issue of minority representation. It’s a touchy issue, really. I agree that it is better for varying races/religions/sexual-orientations, etc. to featured but they should be not flaunted FOR being different. The subtext there is “look at us: aren’t we so accepting of diversity”, and it does more to support the discrimination and separatism of the group, than promote acceptance. Thus, in the case of UP, I think that the fact that Russell is Asian, but has no distinctly Asian characteristics (as far as I know – I am yet to see the film), and is in all respects just an average American kid makes it clear that people of different racial backgrounds can be just as ‘normally American (or Western)’ as anyone else. …I hope that came out right.

    3. The rampant bubble-wrapping of children. The over-censoring of children’s material is ridiculous. I don’t want to go into why the Cookie Monster’s diet is considered so blasphemous, but I thoroughly believe that modern society is poised to expel anything that vaguely resembles a threat to children (ironic, considering the increasing amount of violence and sexuality aimed at younger audiences). On a related note, I find it interesting that so many beloved children’s fiction is attacked for adult undertones – Bert and Ernie and Noddy and Big Ears are gay? Humphrey B. Bear is an exhibitionist because he doesn’t wear pants (honestly, how many anthropomorphised animals DO?)!? But I’ll save that for another time.

    So there you go – my rants for the week. Again, superb podcast. Overthinking It is one of the few sites I check up on daily. On that note, I am 18 and a half, and was surprised to hear your disbelief at reaching a younger demographic – I’m interested to know why this age bracket shouldn’t be part of the audience. For your own information: I found the site due to the Philosophy of Batman posts way back. I’ve been hooked ever since.

    Anyhow. Until we meet again.


  11. Megan from Lombard #

    -‘Fifel Goes West’ and ‘Robin Hood’ (both on VHS) were the two Disney movies that I watched so many times that I could sing along to the songs. I think there’s some law of nature that says children have to watch Disney movies when they’re small.

    -I going for a History degree but am combining it with a Secondary Education degree as well (yes that’s right, I want to teach teenagers). I agree with Perich in networking; you should find a teacher and get to know them well (professionally) because when it comes time to get letters of recommendation a teacher who knows you very well can write a better recommendation than a teacher who you’ve only had once or twice and doesn’t know you very well. Also don’t underestimate going to a community college because you can get your pre-requirements for your major/minor at a cheaper rate than if you went to a university for the entire time; just make sure that the courses you take at a community college will transfer over.

    -Before I hurt my knee I used to listen to this podcast while working out at my uni’s gym; it was really hard to keep a straight face when the panel started riffing.

    -I think that one of the reasons American students continually score lower than the rest of the world is because of the three months during the summer that the schools have off. It’s been shown that while off from school a child will lose about two months worth of learning. Countries like Britain and Germany score higher because they have school year round and therefore the kids are continually learning so they don’t forget what they’ve already leaned. There are other factors (inadequate funding, No Child Left Behind, recruiting teachers) but that seems to be the biggest one.

    I’ll get off my soap box now.


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