A quarter-century ago, Steve Burns stumbled into a role as the primary host of the long-running kid’s show Blue’s Clues, after thinking he was doing a voiceover role. But it turned out that he had unconsidered charms as an on-camera presence, and that made him the perfect fit for a show targeted at pre-preschoolers.
(I remember the show well, despite being 15 years old at the time of its initial release.)
One day, he decided to leave the show, and soon after he recorded an album with a member and producer of The Flaming Lips that was very well-reviewed, and which includes a track that is now the theme song to one of the most popular shows on television. He sort of faded out of our world for a while.
And suddenly, this week, he came back. To let us know that, yeah, maybe suddenly leaving one day wasn’t the greatest idea when lots of kids relied on your constant presence.
In a tweet published by the Nick Jr. Twitter account on Tuesday that is nearing 2 million likes (which, incidentally, is BTS weekday/American-president-winning-an-election territory), Burns (wearing a hat to hide his now-bald head) tells us how proud he is of us for growing up and becoming us.
“I guess I just wanted to say that, after all these years, I never forgot you, ever,” he said, in a moment that jerked many tears. “And I'm super glad we're still friends.”
But I sort of found myself taken by the things Burns decided to focus on in his comments.
“I mean, we started out with clues. And now it's what? Student loans, and jobs, and families,” he said. “And some of it has been kind of hard, you know?”
That he narrowed his focus on student loans and jobs, of all things, sort of feels like an admission to the late-twentysomethings that made up his original target audience that their lives are being defined by the poor contours of capitalism.
I mean, he’s right—it’s not like we got here entirely by choice. But it’s still fascinating to see a children’s personality putting it in such stark terms. This is a guy who, all these decades later, gets his audience of millennial and Gen Z viewers, despite the fact that he hasn’t actually talked to them in about two decades. He is in a role that is immune to politics, to taste, to the changing tides of popular culture.
And he took his role seriously enough that he actually decided to make this video upon the 25th anniversary of the show he helped to create.
We live in a horribly complex world. Blue’s Clues made things seem so simple, and I think a lot of us would honestly love to have some of that back. I almost feel bad that, out of all the things Steve Burns could have come out of the woodwork to discuss with us, he unfortunately had to bring up the student loans. Better that than the insurrection, I guess.
Time limit given ⏲: 30 minutes
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