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The World According to Sesame Street

I recently decided to make use of my Netflix account for something other then renting terrible horror movies, and have added a bunch of documentaries to my Q (I can't spell that word, and I'm not even going to try.) The first of them arrived this weekend, The World According to Sesame Street, which is about efforts to bring Sesame Street to children all over the world, particularly in places where education may be lacking or places embroiled in societal strife. The doc itself was not really put together all that well--it was a bit choppy and kind of badly organized. However, it was fascinating to me to see how the "Sesame Process" works. There were three places featured: South Africa, Bangladesh, and Kosovo, each with its own particular struggles and needs. The South African segment detailed how they had used Sesame Street to promote HIV/AIDS awareness, the US backlash about introducing an HIV+ muppet on the South African show (Hello, Bill O'Reilly, you intolerant douchebag), and the benefits the show has produced. The Kosovo segmant show the attempts to develop a show there that would benefit both the Serbian and Albanian populations and perhaps try to promote tolerance between the groups. The Bengladeshi part showed process from development to construction to production. I'd highly recommend watching it (even if the production itself isn't stellar) just because it's so interesting to see the whole thing come together.

I consider Jim Henson to be a totally underrated revolutionary in American history. His ideas about using TV to educate children who might not otherwise have the opportunities for a preschool education were the first of their kind, and led to everything from Reading Rainbow to Dora the Explorer. The man was a genius. Not to mention that it was probably the first fully-integrated chilren's show, the first to take place in an urban setting, and the first to incorporate not only letters and numbers, but also issues like tolerance and coping with adversity. And the fact that his ideas have now spread to more than 120 countries around the world is mind-blowing.

Who knew that puppets could be so influential?


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