U.S.—In 1996, the Tickle-Me-Elmo doll was released, quickly selling out and becoming the toy sensation of the year. The giggling plush’s popularity led to riots, international counterfeit toy rings, and five civil wars in Eastern Europe. This year, the hottest stuffed toy of the ’90s is back, with some slight changes: The familiar ear-piercing laugh, originally followed by Elmo's voice exclaiming “That tickles!” has been replaced with several more enlightened responses.
“We wanted an Elmo who was a little more woke to today’s social norms,” explains Sandra Lancaster, Chief of Toy Development at IntersectionaliToys, “an Elmo for the 21st century. In the past, he might have put up with some unsolicited tickling and laughed it off, but now he knows he doesn’t have to stand for that kind of harassment anymore!”
This modern Elmo responds to children’s tickling by slapping their hands away and firmly establishing boundaries through phrases like, “That was not consensual!” and “Silence is not consent!” spoken in his endearing trademark voice.
Other adorable new phrases in the red monster’s vocabulary include:
- “Hashtag MeToo!”
- “Monsters not wearing clothes does not mean monsters ‘asking for it’!”
- “Believe all monsters!”
- “Kavanaugh should be jailed!”
- “Topple the patriarchy!”
Lancaster says this is only the first of a new line of progressive Sesame Street dolls. At publishing time, Eco-Warrior Oscar and Vegan Cookie Monster were announced for future release.