In coming for Big Bird from Sesame Street, the anti-vaxxers have finally pushed it too far

·3-min read
Some accused Big Bird of ‘working for big pharma’  (Getty Images)
Some accused Big Bird of ‘working for big pharma’ (Getty Images)

Just when I thought die-hard anti-vaxxers couldn’t get any lower, they actually got taller. That’s right – they’ve come for Big Bird from Sesame Street: all 8’2” of him. The outrage.

And why? Well, because everyone’s favourite giant yellow bird had the audacity to tweet (tweet – geddit) the following message: “I got the Covid-19 vaccine today! My wing is feeling a little sore, but it’ll give my body an extra protective boost that keeps me and others healthy. Ms @EricaRHill even said I’ve been getting vaccines since I was a little bird. I had no idea!”

The TV icon’s tweet garnered lots of high-profile support, including this from US president Joe Biden: “Good on ya, @BigBird. Getting vaccinated is the best way to keep your whole neighborhood safe.”

It also prompted scores of parents to share photos of their children receiving their shot – in the US, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been approved for children aged five to 11 – and thanking Big Bird for helping them feel brave about it. One said: “Thanks Big Bird for continuing to set such a good example of caring about your community! My daughter gets hers tomorrow and it meant a lot to her to hear that you got yours!”

But from other corners of the internet, the response was... less positive. In fact, it was downright abusive. One person said that vaccinating a child meant you “do not love” your kids– and accused those who do choose to give them the vaccine as “strange cultist behaviour” (ah, such sweet irony).

In this interesting Twitter thread, writer Charlotte Clymer explains how the Big Bird furore is just another example of a distracting “culture war” designed to take our attention away from bigger issues.

“The people whom you’re afraid to engage on trans rights and systemic racism and misogyny, because you’ve been led to believe these are distracting ‘culture wars’ that will hurt Democrats, have spent this week attacking Big Bird for making kids feel safe getting a Covid shot,” she tweeted. “Controversy is the point,” she added.

It’s a valid argument: you only have to take a look at the comments beneath Big Bird’s tweet before becoming immediately tangled in people wrangling over the age of the children’s television star; questioning whether “he” is six or 52 (the first appearance of the character on TV was in 1969). Some push further, accusing Big Bird of “working for big pharma”, others branding it “sad” and warning: “No more Sesame Street for any of my kids!”.

Which only makes the issue more glaring: if the arguments of anti-vaxxers are so fragile that they feel threatened by a person dressed up in an animal costume, do they have an argument at all?

Perhaps they should take this advice: “Bad days happen to everyone, but when one happens to you, just keep doing your best and never let a bad day make you feel bad about yourself.”

It comes from someone very tall, very wise – and very yellow.

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