There's a perfectly reasonable explanation for Big Bird's unfolding horror

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Tiny Big Bird
Tiny Big Bird

“Uh oh! Does anyone know how to make me big Big Bird again?” the official Twitter/X account of Sesame Street’s Big Bird posted on January 24. Thus began Big Bird’s own Metamorphosis, in which the typically eight-foot-tall avian Muppet was shrunk down to a size smaller than a paperclip. As the situation unfolded over the following week, Big Bird questioned his identity: “Day 2 of being tiny. Does this mean that I am now just, ‘Bird’?” He also begged his friends and others for assistance: “Maybe I should ask for some help from grown-ups in government or college!”

Denizens of the Internet watchedin dismay as new images of little Big Bird showed up on their feed every day. “boss I can’t come into work this week I need to make big bird big again,” one user tweeted. “Not sure if you guys care but something really bad happened to Big Bird from Sesame Street. He’s little now. He’s not big anymore. I’ve been crying all day,” another wrote. Those following this episode of physical and psychological horror had questions. Who had done this to Big Bird? And why?

Here’s the truth: what we’re witnessing unfold online is actually an event from Big Bird’s past. In the 2005 episode of the beloved PBS series, “The Adventures Of Little Big Bird, Part 1,” Big Bird gets shrunk by an errant spell cast by the Amazing Mumford, Sesame Street’s resident magician. (Mumford had intended to perform his big little trick on the letter M.) Typically optimistic, Big Bird is able to appreciate the new perspective that being small gives him—until he wants to reunite with his friends, who can’t hear him now that he’s tiny. This sets Big Bird on a long and perilous journey to get Mumford to set him back to rights, which eventually resolves happily in “The Adventures Of Little Big Bird, Part 2.”

Within the world of Sesame Street, Big Bird’s scary transformation seems only to have lasted a single afternoon. In this rebooted, social media-based version, however, the tiny Big Bird phenomenon has lasted for days. The official accounts of other Sesame Street characters—even ones not involved in the original storyline—have joined the campaign. On Monday, Elmo posted, “It’s 11:11, everybody make a wish for Big Bird to be big again!” “We are working on it! @SesameErnie did you get the microscope I asked for? #HelpBigBird,” wrote Bert. (“Microscope? I thought you said, microsoap! heeee heee heee,” Ernie replied.) Big Bird’s best friend Snuffleupagus, meanwhile, entreated librarians for help and promised that he’d go find a magnifying glass to better perceive his now-small pal.

While the videos and images accompanying Big Bird’s social media messages originate from the “Adventures Of Little Big Bird” episodes, it’s unclear if this retelling is going to play out exactly the way it did on television. In that version, Big Bird figured out right away Mumford’s trick was the culprit, while in this version, he still seems mystified as to the cause. It’s also unclear as to why Sesame’s social media managers decided to play out this experiment with this episode at this time. (Sesame Street has not responded to The A.V. Club’s request for comment.) Whatever the goal of the experiment—to find new ways of making Sesame Street relevant?—it’s undoubtedly a success: people are paying attention to what’s happening to Big Bird, and those people want answers. Here’s hoping they put an end to this abject suffering and once again restore Big Bird to his rightful size soon.