I was in the first generation of kids who grew up with Sesame Street. Even at a young age, I recognized how rare it was to see fellow Latinos on television, much less a happily married, well-adjusted couple like Maria and Luis.
I wasn’t even traumatized when Grover would get all quiet, lean in to whisper to a little Hispanic child, and then start shouting and waving his spindly arms around. Seriously, he did that a lot.
So I am happy that Sesame Street continues to take its mission seriously and reflects the evolving culture of America. Recently, the show announced that it will be adding a new Latino character and would focus on Hispanic heritage for its upcoming 44th season.
The show is also seeking a bilingual actor or actress between the ages of 18 and 25 who is “capable of singing and improvising in both English and Spanish and [has] a good sense of humor.”
One presumes that the superhuman ability to tolerate Elmo for more than 19 seconds would also be a plus. For the right actor, this could be a big break of Snuffleupagusian proportions.
As we know, the creators of Sesame Street were always way ahead of the cultural curve, bringing multiculturalism into the American home decades before the term became a laudable goal or a evil conspiracy (depending on whom you talk to).
The Jim Henson Company continues to be at the forefront of societal change, as evidenced by its decision to sever ties with Chick-Fil-A over the homophobic stance of that company’s head. Apparently, Big Bird is no fan of religious zealots.
Of course, some people will insist that Sesame Street is just being PC or trendy for adding a Latino character. This ignores the fact that acknowledging Hispanic culture — a generation before virtually any other television program did — is not trendy. It’s genius.