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GOP Grouchy Over HIV Muppet

Discussion in 'Sesame Worlds' started by Phillip, Jul 15, 2002.

  1. Phillip

    Phillip Administrator Staff Member

    GOP Grouchy Over HIV Muppet
    Courtesy of E Online

    Call it the Great Muppet Caper, part two.

    Disturbed by the prospect of Sesame Street introducing an HIV-Positive Muppet on its South African version as part of an AIDS education effort, a group of conservative lawmakers is making like Oscar the Grouch and has sent a letter to PBS expressing their concern over the appropriateness of such a character and subject matter on public television.

    "We look forward to working with you to ensure that only age and culturally appropriate programs air on PBS, which is a mainstay that millions of parents have come to rely upon over the past 35 years," reads the letter, which was obtained by Daily Variety.

    Five Republican members of the powerful House Commerce Committee, led by chairman W.J. "Billy" Tauzin of Louisiana, also reminded PBS president Pat Mitchell that Congress has the last word on funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, PBS' backer.

    The new HIV-infected female Muppet is set to debut September 30 on Takalani Sesame with the goal of helping combat the spread of HIV and AIDS by educating youngsters on the epidemic and repudiating widely held cultural stereotypes about the virus and those infected. More than 10 percent of the South African population is infected with HIV.

    The forces behind Sesame Street say the character, who has yet to be designed or named, will freely interact with her fellow Muppets, and the topic of AIDS would be handled delicately and not explicitly mention sex.

    While the HIV-positive Muppet might later be introduced in other countries where a sizable percentage of the population is battling AIDS, PBS said last week that there were no immediate plans for a similar character to join Big Bird, Bert and Ernie, Elmo and the rest of the gang Stateside.

    Still, that's not stopping conservatives from taking swipes at the award-winning children's series. The American Family Association says the character is a means for homosexual activists to influence young viewers. And the Tauzin-led congressional letter-writers--which also included Represtentatives Joe Barton (R-Texas), Cliff Stearns (R-Florida), Fred Upton (R-Michigan), Charles Pickering (R-Mississippi) and Richard Burr (R-North Carolina)--are taking PBS' Mitchell to task.

    "While it is important to teach children in an age-appropriate manner about compassion for those who contract certain diseases, we would like to inquire as to whether there is other PBS programming, aimed at an older age group, which may be more suitable for such sensitive messages," the letter continues.

    The politicians, all supporters of a movement in Congress to slash funding for public broadcasting, have requested that Mitchell respond to their inquiry by Friday. She been asked to answer such questions regarding how much funding PBS annually allocates Sesame Street; whether or not the PBS bigwig would allow corporations to play a larger role in underwriting more programming; and whether the show has plans to bring the HIV-positive Muppet to America. This despite PBS' assurances that it wasn't.

    Ironically, one of the few morality mavens coming out in support of the HIV-positive Muppet was none other than the Reverend Jerry Falwell. Falwell, who notoriously tried to out Teletubby Tinky Winky, says he believes the new Muppet will have a positive effect, as long as there is no discussion of its sexuality.

    A PBS spokesperson declined to comment Monday on the letter.
  2. EmmyMik

    EmmyMik New Member


    Just this once I'm gonna be a good girl and not comment...
  3. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    I agree with Emmy's sigh.

    Has all of America completely missed that this is only affecting the South African version of the show? Have I missed something?

    Do these people who are freaking out know where South Africa is? Do the lawmakers realize PBS has virtually nothing to do with the show? These Republicans need something else to do with their time, perhaps putting more money in to education for reading comprehension and geography.

    ...and I though Canadian politians were crazy!
  4. matleo

    matleo Active Member

    trust the Republicans. No offense to any Republican supporters here, but come on. here's an idea. Get this country in order first, THEN worry about a children's TV show in another country. But you know what this is don't you? The Republicans have been looking for an excuse to cut funding in Public Television for years without looking like the bad guys. Remember Newt Gingrich?? Believe me. An HIV-Muppet is a front. That's my take on it anyway. Think we should send these Republican congress members some Muppet lingerie or would that just make things worse?

  5. ZootandDingo

    ZootandDingo Member

    What gives you that idea? The fact that they're demanding PBS to show them them their books? :)

    I hate to tell them, but "Sesame Street" isn't entirely funded by PBS, unless I have read the message on the backs of products incorrectly, so it's really none of the GOP's business who is financing this new character.....for a production in a country that they have no governing authority over.

    But seriously, I agree with you. This sounds like nothing more than an angle they're going to try to play up. If it was just normal Republican homophobia, then they wouldn't have brought up the funding.

    I just hope everyone remembers this kind of stuff when it comes time to select our elected officials in the future.
  6. MuppetQuilter

    MuppetQuilter Member

    Matt-- I agree with the sentiment, but yes, that would make things worse. ;)

    What would be appropriate would be letters to our lovely representatives pointing out a few facts about geography and the scope of America's Public Broadcasting System. Last time I checked, PBS was not in control of South African television.

    I would also like to encourage anyone who has a spare dime to send it to PBS. You can specify a use for your donation-- meaning we can say we want our dimes to fund Sesame Street. In America, money talks.

    Matt's right, funding cuts for PBS are inevitable in the current political climate. It's a shame how easily people will jump on a bandwagon if it is about tearing something (or someone) down. Imagine what could happen if we harnessed that energy and put it into job training programs for the homeless or quality day care and after school programs for inner city kids...
  7. frogboy4

    frogboy4 Inactive Member

    I think that maybe we should put on a little puppet show ourselves to teach these Republicans that pediatric AIDS and HIV exposure has nothing to do with homosexuality. It seems like it's the old fogeys that just don't get it.

    It always makes me laugh when I hear that Sesame Street depends so much on public funds. Sesame Street doesn't really depend on PBS. Actually Sesame is the crown jewel of public television that they do not want to lose. Just silly.

    Maybe Congress should stop thinking so much about cutting PBS funding and focus more on cutting terms of these old guys and setting some limits. Time for some new ideas!:)
  8. CaptCrouton

    CaptCrouton New Member

    I don't know that Sesame Street is so strong as you think. If so, why did they recently dumb the program down for younger viewers?
  9. radionate

    radionate New Member

    I know for one that I will be writing a letter to my representatives, Chip Pickering, really soon to set him straight. Mississippi relys so heavily on PBS (or ETV as it is called here), as we are a poor state, and oftentimes, the only station a family can get without cable is PBS. To cut funding and take it away would be insane.

    Save PBS and save the Arts!!!!!!!!
  10. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    Yeah! Obviously they don't know that it is for SOUTH AFRICA!!! And I think they're doing this as a way to distract us from the fact that G W Bush is a numbskull! He knew about the attacks and such, but he was too busy having everyone in his pocket so he could cheat his way to the top. Why do you think Nader was on the ballot? He was a Republican spy!

    Besides everything upsets republicans, except the fact that they ruin the economy by giving huge tax cuts for the rich, and none to the middle class down.

    sorry! I'm just a liberal. I've become what I've hated!!!
  11. matleo

    matleo Active Member

    I feel your pain, buddy. And I want you to know...we're gonna get through it together!!

    FOZI3BEAR-- quick get the rubber chicken! Stat!!! We need to slap Dr.Tooth upside the head!!
  12. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    That's okay. Spiralling over!:D
  13. MuppetQuilter

    MuppetQuilter Member

    Capt Crouton-- Sesame Street was not dumbed down for younger viewers because it is not a strong show. The people behind Sesame Street-- a team comprised of television professionals, child psychologists, sociologists, educators and other experts-- regularly rework the show, or parts of the show to make it the best show they can.

    The Sesame Street core audience, that is the majority of the people watching, have been getting younger for years. What works well for a six year old may not work for a three year old. Sesame Street responds to the needs of its audience by tweaking the show and keeping it age appropriate. While, as an adult Muppet fan, I have been slow to accept some of the changes, as a parent I whole heartedly support them.

    The ever increasing number of children's shows has increased competition for Sesame Street. The declining social constraints on television for young kids means younger children are watching. People used to believe two year olds were too young for TV and would not enjoy it nor understand it. We can still debate whether a two year old-- or a one year old-- should watch television but most of us have come to realise a child that young does enjoy it and is able to comprehend some of it.

    So, as I see it, Sesame is responding to consumer demand. It it the show's ability to change and stay current that keeps it as the model of children's programming.

    It is an odd time in this country when Jerry Falwell supports a 'liberal' idea and some of the Republicans in congress do not. Especially when it is something happening on the other side of the world.

    Too bad we can't have these lawmakers work on getting American drug companies to offer more HIV and AIDS medications to African nations at reduced prices.... Now that would truly be helpful.
  14. matleo

    matleo Active Member

    MQ is right,
    Elmo's World was actually created in response to other interactive shows like "Blue's Clues 'and....and...I don't know there was another interactive show at the time that was real big and now I can't remember. but yeah it was revamped to compete with a lot of the educationak stuff that Nickelodeon and such have been doing. It's all part of the game. I agree that I as an adult don't care much for the new SS but as a pare...as some one who may one day have children I understand. Yes, an argumanet can be made that playing to parents and kids and trying not to be like the other shows is what sets SS apart but in more recent years other shows have come along and broken ground that SS hasn't. SS is following the trend. I still think of SS as being ground breaking. Anyon who has seen any of their 9-11 episodes can see that but adapting to the news style is what is going to keep kids watching it and help it survive. Now you guys know I'm as big a Muppet fan as anyone else here, and miss my old street, but it's a street where "kids come first" and we gotta accept that.

    Oh if there is anything in thisthread that makes me doubt my support of the HIV-Muppet it's that for once I AGREE WITH JERRY FALWELL!!! What's that about??? :eek:

  15. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    I know someone quoted this exact same thing a while ago, but I agree. Sure PBS has it's share of Klunkers, like Jay Jay the Airplane (the trid ripoff of Tomas the Tankengine), and Teletubbies (I still don't get that), but it's the only network to attempt culture. These are the SAME people who stress family values and stuff. They do nothing to stop Mr. Jerry Springer from his "Here comes the...(ehhem..)" shows spreading oh so many bad messages into our youth (I, as an artist, say that things like this are okay if done artistically).

    Basically they just want to pull funding, and scam middle class and lower out of tax dollars to keep GOP supporters rolling in caviar and champagne at various campagnes, also at the tax payers expense!

    So if I were in charge, I'd pull funding from G. W. Bush!!! (Sorry! I voted for Gore!)
  16. matleo

    matleo Active Member

    I'm sorry you voted for Gore too. but it's okay buddy we'll get through this thing together. Kev, the rubber chicken, again!!!!

    Just kidding, I voted Gore too!! lesser of 2 evils and all.


    Johnny Fiamma: Whadda ya mean, ya voted for Dukakis????
  17. Smig

    Smig New Member

    Personally, I think both Republicans AND Democrats are screwballs, and that elections these days are more like choosing the lesser of two evils...

    Republicans claim that we shouldn't have to pay taxes on "social services" like PBS. Does that mean that taxes would be lowered once they gutted those programs? NO! It just means all that extra money would just go right into their pockets!!

    But basically, I believe there's no real difference between the Republicans and Demorats anymore. We might as well do away with the elephant and donkey icons and just give them both a more proper symbol..


  18. frogboy4

    frogboy4 Inactive Member


    I agree with you entirely! Kudos to Smig!

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