“Don’t Eat the Pictures”

Lyrics

(sung by Cookie Monster)

[spoken] Today, me learn big lesson about museum etiquette (how to behave). Now me tell you. For instance: you see pretty picture of lady? Look like chocolate hair, vanilla dress, almond eyes, cheeks color of oatmeal cookie, and you say…

See pretty picture with lady inside
Look so delicious, me fit to be tied
Me want to eat it with sugar and cream

But no no no, me know the rule
Picture exciting but not for biting

[Cookie and angels] Don’t eat the pictures
          [angels] No no no
Don’t eat the pictures
          [angels] No no no
Don’t eat the pictures
          [angels] No!
When you go to museum

[Angels continue singing chorus in background. Cookie, spoken] Oh boy, oh boy—Egyptian mummy! Mm, look like banana with picture on. Oh—it three thousand years old? Huh. Should be ripe now!

See pretty mummy, ho ho ho ho
It made in Egypt long time ago
Me love to bake it or boil it or steam
          [angels] No-no-no-no-no-no-no!
But no no no, me know the rule
Mummy look yummy, but it not for tummy

[Cookie and angels] Don’t eat the mummies
          [angels] No no no
          [Cookie, spoken to angels] All right
[Cookie and angels] Don’t eat the mummies
          [angels] No no no
          [Cookie, spoken to angels] Me heard you
Don’t eat the mummies
          [angels] No!
When you go to museum

You put in mouth peas and carrots
Cake and cookies and pie
          [angels] Cookie!
But picture not cookie, it meant for lookie
So if hungry, eat with your eye

[spoken] Oh boy, feast for eyes—delicious statue!

See pretty statue, so smooth and so white
Look like ice cream, me long for a bite
Me love to nibble, but me wouldn’t dream
          [angels] No-no-no-no-no-no-no!
‘Cause no no no, me know the rule
Statue for viewing, it not for chewing

[Cookie and angels] Don’t eat the statues
          [angels] No no no
          [Cookie, spoken to angels] You still here?
Don’t eat the mummies
          [angels] No no no
          [Cookie, spoken to angels] Okay, okay
Don’t eat the pictures
          [angels] No!
          [Cookie, spoken to angels] Me know
When you go to museum

[angels continue singing chorus; fade out]

 

Music by Christopher Cerf, lyrics by Tony Geiss


“Don’t Eat the Pictures” [song] from Don’t Eat the Pictures [film]

I love that these first three songs show the essence of the characters who sing them—Oscar seeing beauty in broken things, Grover seeing humanity and friendship in inanimate objects, and Cookie seeing food in even foodless art.

It never occurred to me as a kid that the three singing monsters above Cookie’s head are the “good angel” figures (like those old cartoons with the devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other) reminding him to follow the rules, respect the art, and don’t eat the pictures. “Museum etiquette,” as Cookie puts it, is indeed important for kids (and everyone) to learn.

But I can empathize with Cookie’s struggle. I’ve been going to museums since I was a kid, and I still feel the urge to interact with the art more than I’m allowed to; Cookie wants to eat the art, and I want to touch it. I’m a very tactile person—I can’t wear wool because it’s too itchy, the texture of terra cotta makes me cringe, and smooth-as-satin wood or stone is my delight. When a work of art appeals to me visually, I want so badly to reach out and feel its texture. For me, the experience of the art isn’t quite complete without this. But, of course, museums and galleries don’t allow this, unless you’re in the gift shop (even then, there can be “Do not touch” signs by the more expensive stuff).

I remember once when I was in culinary school studying to be a pastry chef/cake decorator (a mistake that I’m still paying student loans on), my roommate’s friend asked, “Doesn’t it break your heart when you work so hard to make this thing so beautiful and then someone just cuts into it and eats it?” Baffled, I responded, “No. If it did, I’d be a painter. Cake is supposed to be eaten.” And some part of me insists that art—especially any kind of 3D art or sculpture—is supposed to be touched.

Cookie Monster wins my heart because he is a true hedonist, but with respect. Indulge your senses, and do what feels good. Up until the point where you’d be crossing someone else’s boundary. Respect that boundary.

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