Elmo’s viral fight with a pet rock is the Jan. 6 story we didn’t know we needed

If you have been online the last few days, you might have noticed that Elmo, the cuddly “Sesame Street” Muppet, is suddenly getting an awful lot of play. There seem to be videos popping up everywhere of Elmo shouting at his fellow Muppet Zoe’s pet rock, “Rocco.”

Here’s maybe the most popular clip:

We have the story of a child who has a pretend friend and insists everyone act as if the friend is real. And that annoys Elmo because it’s not true. And it’s really annoying.

People have been delighted by Elmo’s complete loss of it on another Muppet. That is not the kind of thing you tend to expect from “Sesame Street” or from the Muppet who He was famous for his ability to laugh..

To be clear, these clips don’t end with happy endings. These clips end time after time with Elmo refusing accept Zoe’s words. Elmo literally walks out of the room when Rocco steals his line.

The writers want to show their children the conflicts they go through and teach them to respect one another. Elmo has to learn to understand—or if not, humor—the mindset of his friend. Zoe must learn that taking things from other people, such as their snacks, is not acceptable. Or their sanity.

These clips are so much fun to watch, but Elmo refuses to accept it as truth.

These clips are so much fun that I can’t help but smile every time I see them. Elmo will not take nonsense as truth. When he demands Zoe explain how Rocco is going to eat a cookie—“He doesn’t even have a mouth!”—I want to stand up and cheer. Yes, Elmo, that is right, Rocco is just a rock, don’t listen to Zoe, she is gaslighting you to get more sweets.

I wonder whether these clips aren’t so popular precisely because we are all so desperate for voices that will speak the truth as plainly as Elmo does and that will refuse to back down to deniers of reality. No matter what Congress or pundits or other media outlets may claim, Donald J. Trump attempted to remain in office by undermining our election results. He then started a rebellion Jan. 6 at U.S. Capitol. This is not an opinion. It is a fact that has been proven by evidence. It is a fact.

Covid-19, too, is real. There aren’t chips in vaccines. We did, however, go to the moon repeatedly.

I wonder whether these clips aren’t so popular precisely because we are all so desperate for voices that will speak the truth as plainly as Elmo does.

The strategy of those who deny these things is very much that of Zoe—keep insisting on a make-believe reality until we either come to accommodate them out of exhaustion or lose our minds and thereby look less credible. Perhaps the rest of us see in Elmo a kindred spirit, someone who has also just had it with being gaslit and won’t accept it any more. Maybe we who are people of faith also see in him a little bit of Jesus, who repeatedly called out the Pharisees’ teachings on purity and obedience as not the way of God that they said it was. (O.K.. that’s probably just me.

As “Sesame Street” has always aspired to teach us, we do not have to respond to others’ misbehavior with shouting or misbehavior of our own. But today of all days, Elmo reminds us that it is totally appropriate to call out what is only pretend and say, “No, that’s not right.”