• Meet Lily, A Sesame Street Muppet for Our Times

    With the U.S. Department of Agriculture calculating that nearly 50 million Americans — including nearly 17 million children — live in households that can be characterized as insecure due to "insufficient money or other resources for food," the producers of Sesame Street have created Lily, a new Muppet representing children dealing with food insecurity, as part of a special on hunger

    "We thought long and hard about how do we really represent this from a child’s point of view?" Jeanette Betancourt, Sesame Workshop’s senior vice president for outreach and educational practices, said on Monday morning in a telephone interview. "We felt it was best to have this new Muppet take this on in a positive way and a healthy way."

    Ms. Betancourt said that she and her colleagues spent time considering all the elements of Lily's character that would make her realistic but empathetic to young viewers: her style of dress, her voice performance and even mannerisms, like her tendency to look down at her feet rather than make eye contact when she is speaking to other characters.

    I think you have to applaud Sesame Street's insistence on dealing with complex reality — the show has previously addressed economic stress and the problems facing military families — but there's always room for more realism.

    For example, there is already a Grover, so why doesn't he explain to Lily that cuts to capital gains taxes are the key to economic prosperity, which will eventually trickle down even to the Section 8 apartments on Sesame Street? And where is Rand, the Senator Muppet, eager to explain to Lily that, sure, she's hungry now, but compared to the wealthy in America, she has it positively made, since "the rich are getting richer, but the poor are getting richer even faster?"

    And what about Edwin, the Heritage Foundation Muppet? Who but him could explain, in terms even a child could understand, that the grumbling in Lily's stomach can't be because her parents are poor — for how can you be poor and own a refrigerator?

    Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

    Tags: Muppets, Poverty, Unemployment


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