The Muppets bring tolerance to the streets with a new character on “Sesame Street.”
You can’t talk about kids TV without talking about “Sesame Street.” Since the late 60s it has been in the lives of kids on Saturday mornings. It is estimated that 77 million Americans watched the show as kids – that’s 25 percent of the population.
With such a wide audience, the show has a capacity to have an influential impact on kids. Sure The Muppets, Bert and Ernie, Oscar the Grouch and Big Bird and the rest of the cast educate kids every day from the ABCS to sharing. However, the PBS show also takes on more serious issued head on. Nonviolence, diversity, and 9/11, are a few examples of times that “Sesame Street” gets real.
We now have a new Muppet in the neighborhood who is about to break boundaries and her name is Julia.
Her origin story in the neighborhood occurs when Elmo and Abby introduce her to Big Bird and she is reluctant to shake hands. “Julia has autism and sometimes it takes her a little longer to do things,” says. From there on out, everyone plays together and has fun in total acceptance as it goes on the streets.
Not only is Julia a little bit different, but her choice of Muppet gender is also raising eyebrows because it is not widely accepted by researchers that girls can be diagnosed with Autism.
The show has done a lot of research on how to represent the character. “It’s tricky because autism is not one thing,” says writer Christine Ferraro. “It is different for every single person who has autism.”
The team consulted with autism organizations, educators, and families on how to develop the character accurately and respectfully The puppet’s designer, Rollie Krewson, says they planed every detail of the puppets image and behavior.
“Her eyes had to be a certain way because she has to have an intense look, but she has to look friendly.”
She has short hair so it doesn’t get in her eyes and mouth, her clothes are simple without and distracting buttons, zippers or snaps, and she even has eyes that are made differently so she can open and close them when she has to calm down. Her arms are also designed so that they flap around when she is overwhelmed.
Seems like “Sesame Street” is on point with this new Muppet friend, but society has a ways to go learning about Autism. Hopefully this Muppet will help make America woke.