Oscar the Grouch Could Have Been a Good Journalist

From a Wall Street Journal column, “What We Can Learn From Oscar the Grouch,” by Colin Fleming, author of the book Buried on the Beaches: Cape Stories for Hooked Hearts and Driftwood Souls.

A creature emerged from a trash can 50 years ago, on Nov. 10, 1969. The creators of “Sesame Street” blessed Oscar the Grouch with a searching spirit. His can is a kingdom of wonders. . . .

Oscar charms audiences with irrepressible bonhomie. True, he’s not the sort to suffer a fool, he’s not desperate to make a friend, but if you’re also of a questing spirit, he’ll take you to his grouchy bosom. Oscar’s a real friend. For life. Not one for social-media back-scratching. . . .

A good grouch has a high capacity for respect—for dishing it out, but reserving it for those who earn it. The grouch differs from most of us in that his respect isn’t automatically given to everyone. Respect isn’t some participation trophy. . . .

In a 1973 episode, after Oscar had gone green, Johnny Cash shows up and bangs his guitar against Oscar’s can.

“Who goes there?” Oscar inquires. Cash starts to play the song “Nasty Dan,” with its opening lyric about the meanest man there ever was.

I love Oscar’s reaction. This is his turf—this is grouch stuff! But he grips his chin like Rodin’s Thinker, and exclaims, “Huh, I’d like him,” before contributing backing vocals. All in, baby!

That’s what a good grouch does—he goes all in. . . . you needn’t apologize, qualify, back down, preface your remarks by saying, “I’m risking getting attacked here, but . . .” Instead, you do what Oscar does: You speak your mind.

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