Friday 8 October 2010


To most in my age group – we’ll keep that exact number quiet at the moment -  the mere mention of Sesame Street brings about a nostalgic collective sigh. It’s one of those shows that pushed the boundaries, entertained, and educated all in one swoop. And half the time it did it with such an effortless flair, that it actually – yes, that old phrase – made learning fun. It can happen. Even more amazing is that it is not only still on the air, but people still regard it in such high esteem. Seriously, when you have a bunch of puppets singing alongside someone like Ray Charles, how can you go wrong? My sister and I used to watch it religiously. We were big Burt and Ernie fans, likening each other to them respectively. I was Ernie, the shorter of the two of us, with an eye for mischief of course. She was more like Burt, quiet, a bit more introspective. We'd always practice getting into bed at a sideways slant like they did, as if we were puppets. This of course drove my mom nuts as all it did was prolong our bedtime. 

Recently, Sesame Street has gone Nigerian. A renamed version called ‘Sesame Square,’ has hit the airwaves and it has got a unique West African flair. Mainly, a few of the puppets are dealing with distinct issues and problems endemic to the region. Kami, a girl puppet, is HIV positive. She is of course also effervescent, blond, and has a zest for adventure. Then there is Zobi, a blue furry muppet who seems to gravitate towards trouble and mischief. (My kind of puppet). But thankfully in true Sesame Street style he manages to escape it and more importantly, learn his lesson.

Sesame Square is quite pioneering actually – following in its forefather’s footsteps of course – and aims to address some of the biggest challenges facing the region, be it AIDS, malaria, or religious intolerance. One episode focuses on Zobi getting tangled up in a mosquito net; hijinks ensue of course, but the moral always remains which is that a net could very well save Zobi’s life from malaria. Of course it also focuses on learning skills and all the while remains sensitive to the region’s religious bent. Apparently the girl and boy puppets are not allowed to hug due to a very Muslim population in northern Nigeria. Oh come on, they’re puppets! They’re made of fabric, I promise you nothing will come of it. Maybe that’s another lesson they should have on there, one being that a hug between men and women can be utterly innocuous. Okay okay, Rome was not built in a day. I shall relent.

So all this got me thinking about a few more puppets I think Sesame Street over here should include in its fold. Firstly: the gay puppet, or why not the gay puppet couple. It’s clearly legal to marry on Sesame Street of course. And all the other puppets will embrace them wholeheartedly without question or mention of their sexuality. Then there could be the neo-con and liberal puppet that get along like a house on fire. Maybe they could even live in the same trash can like James Carville and Mary Matalin? And of course there are the religiously diverse puppets – including the atheist puppet, and she’s real nice and has impeccable morals J - that all learn from one another but do not discriminate. Muslim puppet digs Catholic puppet, and Catholic puppet bakes cakes for Hindu puppet, and so on. Of course this will all go on whilst we learn about the letter L. For “Let’s all just get along people!”

A girl can dream.

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