With the introduction of a new character on Sesame Street with parents suffering from addiction could it be a sign that TV is moving forwards when it comes to character development?
A KIDS’ TV favourite, Sesame Street, which I openly admit that I used to watch religiously, also it was a regular Saturday viewing fixture. I absolutely loved it and was already familiar with characters such as Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Big Bird, Grover, Oscar the Grouch, Cookie Monster and Elmo to name but a handful. Oh, the never-ending joy of my childhood weekends.
Recently though they have introduced a new female character called Karli who has become friends with the already established Elmo. Karli is a girl whose mum suffers from drug addiction. On twitter recently there was a touching parent-child moment where Elmo is talking to his dad, Louie, explain to him what addiction is, how it affects people and what happens in order for them to get the help they need.
It’s just under two minutes long and it is just amazing, and quite heart warming to watch as well and when I watched it, I was just so fantastically moved by how they did the scene. It wasn’t at all patronising in the slightest and it was all put together and written and directed in a way in which children would understand without giving them the grittier side of the reality.
Looking back over the past few years on how Sesame Street has developed in terms of character creation has genuinely surprised me. Way back in 2015 the producers took a bold decision to introduce a young female character called Julie, who was portrayed as a four-year-old child. Now what set her apart was that she was the first character on the show who had a learning disability. Basically, Julie was Autistic.
Now I myself have grown up with a learning disability and have known others with similar problems to the character or Julie. Sadly, I have also known some who have it worse then than her. My disability is called Asperger Syndrome which is a mild form of Autism.
As a person with Autism I found it to be both fantastic and ground-breaking that a decision had been taken to introduce such as character. For me, what was just amazing about it was that it would help people to, not just understand the disability community, but to hopefully help society realise that they are just human beings who are just as vulnerable themselves.
Believe me when I say I have experienced plenty of unfair judgments just for being, what others perceive, as ‘different’. To be judged on something that you simply cannot help is heart-breaking enough in itself.
However, going back to the character of Karli. As a child she is a great representation for children whose parents suffer from addiction and need help. In the scene that is currently circling around on social media Elmo asks his dad why Karli’s mum needs to go away for a while. While I was watching the scene, a thought came into my head and I found myself asking who would be taking care of Karli whilst her mother was seeking help for her addiction problems. Hopefully this is something that the programme will cover at some point.
In some ways Sesame Street has changed into something of a hybrid of children’s programme with added elements of a prime-time soap opera. For all those who moan about, complaining how it isn’t right and how you shouldn’t be doing this sort of thing on a children’s TV show just stop for a moment, remember how two of its characters, Eric and Ernie unintentionally became representations of the LGBT+ community? Now there were a lot of people, and no doubt many of the shows’ fans who wanted these two to get together.
Though they didn’t it did show people how two members of the same sex living together was neither immoral or sinful.
As a person myself who is in two minority groups, disability and LGBT+ I rather like how the show is evolving in the way it represents certain characters from minority groups. I mean who know, one day we might have a character who is blind/visually impaired or wheelchair bound. Or we could have one who is ethic minority or a member of a different religion, or from another country. Just think, if they ever did that children could have fun learning another language. Or, if you really wanted to push the boat out here, they could have the introduction of a character who is ethnic minority and wheel-chair bound.
Seriously though Sesame Street, in terms of characters like Julia and Karli I salute you.
For your viewing, please watch.