If Toy Story 3 taught us anything, it’s that little kids can be really tough on the toys that they love.
TikTokker Zoe Hochberg found a new way to illustrate that with her viral video. Posted earlier this year, a video comparing two copies of a doll of Zoe the Muppet from Sesame Street has received more than 10 million views, 1.5 million likes and 14,000 comments.
In the video, captioned “I’m so sorry, Zoe. You’ve been through a lot in 23 years,” we see a pristine Zoe doll. The on-screen caption explains that Hochberg’s mother bought two of the same doll when her daughter was born. One was kept safe in a cabinet, while the other was given to Hochberg to play with.
The display doll looks almost the same as when it was bought. Bright orange fur, clean, white eyes, fluffy and inviting. But the one she played with is barely recognizable as Elmo’s friend. The doll Hochberg played with is a dingy brown with dark grey stains all over. It’s missing fluff around the lips, has a damaged nose and the eyes have turned from white to a dark yellow.
While toys can absorb all the love kids can put into them, studies have shown that it’s best to give children only a few beloved toys rather than giving them a wide selection. “The influence of the number of toys in the environment on toddlers’ play,” a 2018 study by Carly Dauch, Michelle Imwalle, Brooke Ocasio and Alexia E. Metz, found that when toddlers were placed in a play area with either four toys or 16 toys, the toddlers in the four-toy environment played with the toys for longer periods of time and in more creative ways. Conversely, the toddlers with more toys played in more “simplistic” plays.
Similar behavior has been seen by parents in everyday life, too.
“I found that while lots of toys initially keeps them occupied, a few well-thought-out purchases can really capture their imagination and can be used for years,” Sylvia Clark, founder of Easy Sustainable Living, told Parents magazine.
Though Hochberg is an adult now, she hasn’t stopped playing with her Zoe dolls. In one video, she re-creates the “I’m Holly” Saturday Night Live sketch. Another shows the hazards of drinking on a weeknight—the pristine Zoe doll is tucked into bed with the caption “Going to sleep after a Thursday night out,” but when the video cuts to the next morning, the played-with Zoe stares at herself in the mirror.
Hochberg’s commenters were also delighted yet shocked to see the played-with doll.
“Did you play torture?” @danhermosillo_ wrote.
“Elmo does not want to play with Zoe ANYMORE. THIS PLAYDATE IS OVER,” @i_put_thepan_in_pandemic said.
“TOP IT NOT FIVE NIGHTS AT SESAME STREET,” @_jxssie_xo wrote, referring to the popular Five Nights at Freddie’s horror game, where animatronic robots like those at Chuck E. Cheese stalk and attack the player.