Polarized Politics Hit Sesame Street

Lily the Hungry Muppet

Lilly the Hungry Muppet

The results of the U.S. Census  released last month showed that 20.1 percentage of New Yorkers are living below the official federal poverty line, the highest in ten years. That’s a 1.4-percentage-point annual increase. Appropriately, PBS show Sesame Street decided to introduce a new muppet named Lily, who is the so-called “hungry muppet” and represents those families hit by the economic crisis and living on the breadline.

“The message we give for young children in the program is to be a friend.  It may allow them be empathetic toward children who may be experiencing this issue,” said Melissa Dino, supervising producer on Sesame Street. In the special broadcast that aired last week, Lily and Elmo take a tour of the food pantry that Lily volunteers at. Volunteerism is a heavily emphasized in that episode.

Lily’s chacrater has been criticized by right-wing political commentators and bloggers who worry that Lilly will send the wrong message to children, notably an “Obama” message  along the lines of Cookie Monster needing to “redistribute his cookies”. Blogger Jim Hoft writes: “Here’s something else Barack Obama and Democrats can be proud of. With a record number of Americans on food stamps, record unemployment, increased debt and record poverty, Sesame Street will introduce a poor, starving Muppet to educate on the growing number of starving children in Obama’s America.” Conservative commentators have also erroneously countered Lily’s plight with the widespread child obesity issue, as though they are mutually exclusive. “Wait, hold on, stop the papers,” wrote one commentator, “I thought our children were fat and lazy?” For the record, child obesity is often directly related with malnourishment, which is exactly Lily’s issue.

“Does my little boy [who watches Sesame Street] have to see that this is going on?” asked Eric Bolling, a commentator for Fox News. “Do we single out the little black Muppet? Or the little Hispanic Muppet? Why do we need to single out the hungry Muppet? […] I’m waiting for them to have this evil Republican or Tea Party muppet that they’re going to blame little Lily’s poverty on.”

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