hiv-positive muppet to debut in south africa
The South African version of Sesame Street plans to introduce an HIV-positive Muppet character, who may eventually appear on the US version of the show.
A spokesperson at the international AIDS conference said the character will be introduced in South Africa, where one in nine people are HIV positive, as a way of expanding awareness of the infection among children and "de-stigmatizing" the disease.
I grew up with Sesame Street, and I think it fulfills a very positive function in portraying people of different ethnic backgrounds--white, black, Hispanic, monster, enormous yellow bird--getting along without making a big deal of their differences. My girls love the show, too, and watching it with them I'm amazed at how clever it is in many ways--presenting lots of short snippets about counting or letters, for example, and alternating live actors, Muppets and animation, all of which is perfect for short attention spans.
But I think the show is taking the wrong approach. A Muppet is just too unrealistic. Inasmuch as the show feels it will benefit children to be aware of HIV, I think introducing a live character would be much more effective. Although I didn't see the episode, I understand that when the actor who played store owner Mr. Hooper died, the character died on the show, and it apparently handled the subject of death from a child's perspective very well. (My almost-three-year old knows that one of our cats died; we had to tell her when she noticed Nicholas didn't come with us to the new house.) Muppets don't bleed...if the show wants to send a message about how the infection spreads (aside from sex--that topic does not seem to be contemplated), a person would be a much better model.
By the way...Ernie and Bert are not gay. Frankly, I've lately perceived their relationship as being more like a parent and child. I think the mischevious Ernie is designed to appeal to kids as he contstantly gets the better of the boring Bert (who like paper clips, pigeons, and the color beige), often by taking Bert's statements literally. My oldest daughter Cecilia is entering that stage right now--obeying the letter of the law while doing what she wants, if she can, regardless of her parents' intentions.
(via Cut on the Bias)