NFT-Oh No: Sesame Street Gets Into the NFT Biz

Published: March 14, 2023
Categories: Commentary, Feature

Well, here we go again.

On Monday, March 13, Variety shared the exclusive story that Sesame Street was entering the NFT game.

Every time a Henson-adjacent property has entered the NFT scene, we here at ToughPigs have had a negative reaction, and editorial has called me in to complain. In 2021, I said that Labyrinth NFTs were the worst thing the Henson Company had ever done. Just last month, I showed you how Fraggle Rock NFTs were just repackaging old screenshots with no gain.

And now, they’ve come for Cookie Monster, and I’m just tired.

Here we go again with all the same lingo we’re used to. Jennifer Ahearn, Sesame Workshop’s VP of global strategic partnerships, says “Collaborating with VeVe for [Sesame Street’s] first collection of digital collectibles is a great way to celebrate [the series’] enduring legacy and give our long-time fans a new way to showcase their love for Sesame Street and its characters.”

Great. A new way to showcase my love for Sesame Street and its characters…by, uh, spending $60 to own one of 5,555 “collectible” 3D images of the Cookie Monster.

That’s it? That’s what we’re talking about here? We’re spending 60 bucks on that???

Yup, we’re back here again. Admittedly, this is at least new artwork, which is more than I can say about those Fraggle NFTs from February. However, it’s not exactly good artwork. It’s a fairly low-detail 3D render that looks kind of like those old Sesame toys, except again, it’s not real. It has nowhere near the kind of artistic appeal of the puppet itself, or of old Sesame books, or the kind of fanart you’ll see the talented artists on Muppets Twitter (and on this very website!) making every day.

What can we do with our very own Cookie Monster NFT? Mostly just look at it on the VeVe app, and remember that we own it. According to this Variety article, Cookie can be put in our “digital collections in virtual showrooms.” We can also look at other virtual showrooms and comment on them.

Once again, I want to remind you that Muppet Wiki exists, and it’s free, and there’s thousands of images of Cookie Monster alone on it. Like, here’s a picture of Ernie holding a picture of Cookie Monster. For free! Save your $60 and use it to buy a Nintendo Switch game or something.

Look, I’m treading a lot of the same ground I did a month ago with the Fraggle stuff. Like I said, I’m tired. Ultimately, these NFTs aren’t for us superfans, who’d much rather just own a set of the Sesame Street Treasury or Follow That Bird on DVD. Not everything has to be for us, of course. A lot of people will argue NFTs are fine, and obviously everyone is allowed to have their opinions. This is mine: this is bad, and actively harmful to the Sesame brand.

There’s nothing to NFTs. There’s no purpose. Sesame, a brand that for years thrived on the idea of purposeful merchandise, has settled on this. What do I mean by “purposeful merchandise?” Well, originally, Sesame Street was hesitant to sell anything that wasn’t educational. For years, their products had information on them reminding parents how buying these things could help them continue with the lessons their kids were learning on the TV show. Here’s a photo of two pieces from my personal collection, dating from the earliest days of Sesame Street. You can see that Sesame even took the time to remind parents how a book could be used to help their kids further.

I know those days are gone, and have been for a while now. There’s nothing educational about the Cookie Monster pajama pants we all had (or have, honestly) or that really big Snuffleupagus Funko Pop. But as a whole, Sesame is a brand known for simple joys, connections, positivity, and quality.

This isn’t any of those things. What Sesame is selling, with the forced scarcity and the purposelessness of the CG images, is gambling. NFTs, like every bubble, are about financial speculation. NFT collectibles need to look legitimate, but there’s no substance here. It’s a get-rich-quick scheme, designed to use our love of Cookie Monster to disguise how it’s about buying something low and reselling it later. That’s how all of these NFTs work. They’re not to be enjoyed. They’re to be stockpiled and to be profited upon.

Like all bubbles, it’s going to burst. It’s already wavering. We’re seeing interest wane in Bored Ape Yacht Club, not to mention there’s that class-action lawsuit about celebrities artificially inflating the prices of those ugly monkeys. Meta just announced this week that they’re exiting the NFT game. Major tech companies now can’t shut up about AI, leaving NFTs in the dust.

Sesame, and the VeVe Company as a whole, isn’t giving us a quality product. They’re rushing to make some money off of this now, while they still can. You’re going to be left holding the bag when the execs at VeVe have moved on to something bigger and better. And unlike with Beanie Babies, the bag isn’t even cute. It’s just a $60 picture of Cookie Monster you need an app to look at. What happens if no one wants to trade Cookie Monsters? What happens if the VeVe app stops being supported? Where will your Cookie Monster display room be then?

Chew on that for a bit.

Like I’ve said in my other articles, I’m skeptical about the environmental impact of any type of Etherium. I know VeVe talks a lot about carbon offset and how they use 99.9% less energy than other popular NFT services. I know that Funko Pops recently reminded us just how wasteful plastic toys can be in the wrong circumstances. I would like to see more specific data; I recognize I don’t know enough to challenge them on this right now.

I know that Sesame needs help financially. It’s been a hard couple of years for the entertainment industry, with job cuts all over. They still operate out of New York City, and lord knows that things are unbelievably expensive out there. I know capitalism forces us all to make sacrifices to keep that line moving upward. I want to help Sesame Workshop and all the brilliant and passionate creatives working there.

At the same time, I’d rather buy things that are quality. Things that are joyful and positive. This is just sad. I don’t want to think about financial speculation, greed, and gambling when I think of Sesame Street. I don’t want to think about complicated phrases like “layer 2 scaling protocol,” “instant trade confirmation,” and “high scalability.”

I want to think of better things than this.

Click here to do the whole thing over again on the ToughPigs forum!

by Becca Petunia

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