I am so torn up about Kevin Clash stepping down. While I find Elmo annoying, I recognize that he is a key character that really speaks to very young children in a way that no other current Sesame Street character does. Elmo is a combination of lovable, silly, disarming, imaginative, plus sickeningly cute topped off with pure warmth and joy. He is a kid show’s MVP, a toy marketer’s wet dream, and an ultimate figure of comfort to many children all over the world.
The allegations against Kevin are very serious, and there may be truth to them, but I can’t shake the feeling that this is a case of people trying to grab their 15 minutes of fame and a payout at the cost of someone’s livelihood and reputation. Even if it’s disproved the stain of the accusation will never leave him. Kevin’s first accuser apparently has a history of check fraud and robbery at knifepoint (charges were dropped inexplicably on that one). His second accuser claims he only realized this very year that the relationship with Kevin over fifteen years ago was psychologically damaging to him. How convenient that it became traumatizing immediately after someone else received a six-figure cash settlement.
If the story is true, it poses a troubling moral question: should consensual sex with a minor always and without exception be considered a criminal act? What is so magical about the number eighteen that makes a clear moral distinction depending on which side of that age you are? One could be seventeen and 364 days, it’s wrong. Plus 24 hours, it’s all good in the ‘hood. This strikes me as completely arbitrary and bizarre. There are people in their twenties and older who aren’t mature enough to handle a sexual relationship. If you think about it, an 18 year old who has sex with a 17 year old boyfriend/girlfriend can be charged with statutory rape and end up on the sex offender list for hooking up with his/her significant other. A very scary thought that something as natural and healthy as sexual exploration can generate a permanent criminal record.
It is reported that Kevin’s second accuser met him via a gay phone chat line, presumably where people talk and arrange for “romantic” encounters. Clearly if the guy was using that service, he was using it with that purpose in mind. Why is this against the law when actor Doug Hutchison can date and marry a seventeen year old and it’s perfectly legal? Yes, many denounce that as creepy and disgusting, but Doug is in no danger of jail time. Nevertheless, if the two accusers are telling the truth, Kevin demonstrated very poor judgement and he should be held accountable according to law.