SESAME STREET Takes Legal Action Against Profane Puppet Movie
By Ben Kayser, Managing Editor
The company owning the children’s program SESAME STREET has called STX Films to stop using their brand in the promotional materials of the R-rated puppet movie THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS, about a human detective working with a disgraced puppet ex-cop. The movie stars Melissa McCarthy and comes from Brian Henson, son of Jim Henson, and the Director of many MUPPET movies. The Red Band trailer of THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS includes foul language, muppets offering to conduct lewd sexual acts, doing drugs and one disgusting scene of two puppets engaging in sex ending with the male puppet ejaculating all over his office for an extended period of time. The slogan on the movie’s poster reads, “No Sesame. All Street.”
The filing against STX Films reads, “Sesame seeks an injunction that forces Defendants to cease and desist their trading upon the goodwill associated with Sesame Street in furtherance of box office receipts. The promotion of The Happytime Murders should succeed or fail on its own merits, not on a cynical, unlawful attempt to deceive and confuse the public into associating it with the most celebrated children’s program in history.” In an additional complaint, Sesame Workshop stated, “Sesame has demanded that Defendants simply drop the references to Sesame Street from The Happytime Murders marketing materials – a relatively small burden compared to the devastating and irreparable injury Defendants are causing”
STX Films claims they are in their legal right to continue their marketing campaign.
Movieguide® is disappointed that the Jim Henson Company’s brand of providing educational, uplifting, entertainment for children is stooping into the R-rated comedy genre. The promotional material says that the movie reveals what goes on with the Muppets when children aren’t present, but the very premise of taking an innocent children’s brand and making it vulgar is twisted in itself, and there’s no getting around the fact that children will be exposed to the movie. The hyper-sexualization of puppets even in the marketing material can be detrimental to a child’s development, and lead to earlier exposure to pornography and addiction. The 2016 animated movie SAUSAGE PARTY faced similar criticism when countries like France deemed the movie acceptable for 12-year-olds, even though the movie has explicit sex and an orgy scene. Movieguide® heard from many parents whose children were confused that they weren’t allowed to see SAUSAGE PARTY, because it looked like a children’s movie based on the poster. Many children aren’t so fortunate to have protective parents.
No amount of R-rating’s will protect children from such material. Studios and filmmakers need self-restraint in this area. STX Films and those running the Jim Henson Company should take a cue from Jim Henson himself, who said, “When I was young, my ambition was to be one of the people who made a difference in this world. My hope is to leave the world a little better for having been there.”
Update: The presiding judge over the case ruled against Sesame Street.