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Is the Count on Sesame Street a vampire?

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The Count cape cover
Count-skeleton
1092-08
Thecountsnumberparade

The Count's Number Parade drew criticism in 1979 from one reader who wrote: "It seems poisonous to make a monster (Dracula) to appear as a competent teacher (even a teacher of numbers) because such an appearance would seem to mislead children into trusting Dracula, and possibly monsters in general."

Sesame Street’s Count von Count was originally modeled after Bela Lugosi's interpretation of Count Dracula. Yet, while he exhibits many classic vampire clichés — an old spooky castle, a fondness for bats, fang-like teeth, and his overall appearance — he has never been explicitly identified as a vampire, on screen.

The Count resembles Bela Lugosi's portrayal of Dracula in voice (speaking in an Eastern European accent and pronouncing his V's as W's), appearance, and sometimes mannerisms. For example, in early sketches, the Count waves his hands to exercise hypnotic power over other Muppets and holds his cape over the lower part of his face while moving (as seen in a 1972 sketch with Ernie and Bert). In addition, an early skit revealed that the Count shows no reflection in a mirror, and the Season 40 online press kit listed garlic as a pet peeve; both of these characteristics are consistent with vampire ailments.

Unlike vampires as traditionally depicted in legend and motion pictures, however, The Count often relaxes in the sunlight (as seen in "Counting Vacation" and "Coconut Counting Man," among others), but has shown a tendency to stay out of it when he can.[1] Furthermore, the Count has never demonstrated a fondness for blood or the ability to turn into a bat. Nor does he sleep in a coffin (he sleeps at night in a normal bed).

A 2009 version of The Count's profile on Sesame Workshop's website refers to the character as a "number-friendly vampire" and suggests that he may be a distant relative of Count Dracula.[2] In addition, the book Sesame Street Unpaved describes the Count as a "Numerical Vampire."[3] In contrast, the 2001 Sesame Street Muppets Drawing Guide insists "The Count is not a vampire."[4]

Some traditional vampire myths depict vampires as having a similar fixation with counting small objects, providing a means of distracting them by tossing a handful of seeds or salt on the ground. This is seen as a protection from the vampire. The Count's own arithmomania may simply be a coincidence, however, with the character inspired more by the pun on his title of nobility.

We have tried to make it clear that the Count is not a representative of evil. He is presented a rather eccentric character – obsessed with counting everything in sight. Other characters on Sesame Street react to the Count’s behavior with amusement (or sometimes exasperation) but never fear.[5]

Criticisms

Over the years, Sesame Street’s depiction of a vampire-like character has been met with some criticism from adult audiences. The following letters are some examples of the complaints lodged with Sesame Street’s producers, as found in the CTW Archives.

In popular culture

Familyguycount
Family Guy "Family Guy Viewer Mail #1" (2002)

Following a clip of The Count on TV:

Peter: Hey, is the Count a vampire?
Brian: What's that?
Peter: Well, he's got those big fangs. Have they ever shown him doing somebody in and then feeding on him?
Brian: You're asking if they've ever done a Sesame Street in which the Count kills somebody and then sucks their blood for sustenance.
Peter: Yeah.
Brian: No, they've never done that.
Colbert20090629
The Colbert Report June 29, 2009

Stephen Colbert states that we have to attack counting. "Counting uses Arabic numerals, and it is a known associate of vampires." A picture of Count von Count accompanies the statement.

TreehouseHorrorXXI
The Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror XXI" (2010)

The vampire-themed segment features a parody of the Count sucking the blood from a parody of Big Bird.

See also

Sources

  1. MomsLA interview at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour 2014 in Pasadena on January 21, 2014 (YouTube)
  2. Sesame Workshop profile. Accessed November 19, 2009.
  3. Borgenicht, David Sesame Street Unpaved; New York, NY: Hyperion, 1998, pp. 56-58.
  4. Stevenson, Nancy W. (illustrator) Sesame Street Muppets Drawing Guide; Sesame Workshop: New York, NY, 2001, p. 9.
  5. November, Deborah. CTW Assistant Editor. May 23, 1979

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