October 22, 2015

"Sesame Street Just Unveiled Its First Autistic Character/Julia was introduced... in an effort to fight the stigma associated with autism..."

Headline at Buzzfeed. I listened to part of the embedded video, stopping shortly after the lyric "We all are important/We all are OK..." made me think too much. I read some of the comments, which I sorted according to "best." After wading through some discussion of whether the headline should have said "character with autism" instead of "autistic character," I got to some criticism of "Sesame Street" for working with an organization called Autism Speaks:
As an autistic person I hate that they worked with Autism Speaks. We autistic people can speak for ourselves, we don't need an organization without even one autistic person on the board speaking for us. While Sesame Street's heart is in the right place they're going about this all wrong and I wish I could help them fix it. Have a bunch of actual autistic people provide input on the character, not just the parents of autistic people. Only we can fully express what's in our heads.
There's also criticism of "Sesame Street" for making the character a girl when boys are much more likely to be autistic. One answer is: "It is exactly so they can break the stereotype." But, somebody says, that's "marginalizing boys with autism." Somebody else says having a girl exemplify autism is like have a male breast cancer spokesperson.

35 comments:

Scott said...

By the time a child understands what autism is, they are too old to watch Sesame Street.

This new character is CTW genuflecting toward a community of adults who gets into that stuff. It has nothing to do with children.

MayBee said...

Why can't it be they wanted an autistic character so they created an autistic character? Why does she have to be created with the purpose of fighting the stigma?

TosaGuy said...

My neck of the prairie growing up had no access to public TV and Sesame Street.

I consider myself lucky.

rhhardin said...

Journalism attracts sociopaths.

Scott said...

"Why can't it be they wanted an autistic character so they created an autistic character? Why does she have to be created with the purpose of fighting the stigma?"

That's a rhetorical question of course. Sesame Street isn't about entertainment. It's about using government subsidies to make giant piles of cash from a commercial media enterprise targeted at the good intentions of parents and our most vulnerable citizens.

MayBee said...

Ha, Scott! You're right.

Sesame Street already trained a generation of children to have painfully short attention spans. It was actually detrimental. It's amazing how much credit it gets as something other than entertainment.

Jane the Actuary said...

Are they really saying that 4 year olds have the potential to be bullies, and they have to stop this with a new character? I thought that all children are naturally open-minded and it's just that adults poison them as the grow older.

I agree that to make this character a girl seems to almost deliberately try to avoid the issue, and I assume that they're going to make her "autistic-ness" relatively nonthreatening. She won't scream or moan, she'll just flap her hands or maybe just incessantly talk about bugs.

In any case, that "theme song" sounded awful -- and hearing "everyone is amazing in their own way" as a 4 year old isn't going to make a difference in what that kid does at the age of 8 or 10 or 12 if there's an autistic kid mainstreamed into their classroom, in the same way as the "DARE" program for preteens had no impact on decisions 5 or 10 years down the road.

Besides, do kids still watch Sesame Street? (If the progressives succeed with their Free Daycare agenda, it'll disappear, anyway, right?)

Scott said...

Hell yes MayBee. CTW is almost a criminal enterprise, operating in plain sight.

Scott said...

My sister's boy has autism. He's not much into social interaction. Is this new character going to be sitting in a corner while the other muppets do stuff?

EMD said...

"That's a rhetorical question of course. Sesame Street isn't about entertainment. It's about using government subsidies to make giant piles of cash from a commercial media enterprise targeted at the good intentions of parents and our most vulnerable citizens."

True, and there is certainly more propaganda to the show now than I recall in the seventies. But, as a 4 year old I enjoyed it. One two three four five six seven eight nine ten eleven TWEEEEEEEEEEELLVE!

EMD said...

"My sister's boy has autism. He's not much into social interaction. Is this new character going to be sitting in a corner while the other muppets do stuff?"

Our neighbors have a son diagnosed with autism. He does not, however have the anti-social component. I told his parents that they were very lucky, since that's the most difficult issue to deal with. (My brother is on the autism spectrum and has had problems with social situations.)

Scott said...

@JTA: "In any case, that "theme song" sounded awful..."

This was a big hit from 1970, by Ray Stevens. Too much "God" and "Jesus" for CTW though.

- - - - -

Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Whether yellow, black and white
They are precious in his sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world

Everything is beautiful in it's own way
Like a starry summer night
Or a snow covered winter's day
And everybody's beautiful in their own way
Under God's Heaven
The world's gonna find a way

There is none so blind
As He who will not see
We must not close our minds
We must let our thoughts be free

For every hour that passes by
You know the world gets a little bit older
It's time to realize that beauty lies
In the eyes of the beholder

And everything is beautiful in it's own way
Like a starry summer night
Or a snow covered winter's day,
Everybody's beautiful in their own way
Under God's Heaven
The world's gonna find a way

We shouldn't care about the length of His hair
Of the color of His skin
Don't worry about what shows from without
But the love that lives within

And we're gonna get it all together now
Everythings gonna work out fine
Just take a little time to the look on the good side my friend
And straighten it out in your mind

And everything is beautiful in it's own way
Like a starry summer night
Or a snow covered winter's day,
Everybody's beautiful in their own way
Under God's Heaven
The world's gonna find a way,

And everything is beautiful in it's own way
Like a starry summer night
On a snow covered winter's day


--Ray Stevens, "Everything is Beautiful"

Laslo Spatula said...

Maybe Sesame Street needs a Rapist Character.

Tickle Me Elmo was asking for it.

I am Laslo.

Scott said...

At the top right of the page, you will note that the Amazon portal ad is filled with Sesame Street stuff to buy for your children.

Education meets commerce. Commerce wins. Education didn't have a chance.

damikesc said...

where is all of this condemnation of autistic people? It's sad that they have that condition, but who hates them for it?

If your precious snowflake is a bully, it is usually a learned behavior at home. And SJW are notorious bullies.

madAsHell said...

Muppets have gender?
Who knew?

Which one is trans-gender?

Terry said...

"We all are important/We all are OK..."
This is risible. Was Dylann Roof OK? How about child-molesting teachers, are they okay?

holdfast said...

Boys are almost five times as likely as girls to have Autism Spectrum Disorder ("ASD"), so of course they made the character a girl. Because Grrrrl Power.

http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html

One of the (many) problems in helping kids with ASD is that it's been defined so broadly, and now incorporates other formerly seperate diagnoses, that it's almost useless as a descriptor. It covers everything from the totally non-verbal kid rocking himself in the corner, to the highly verbal and energietic kid who makes faux pas because he just can't properly read verbal and visual social cues (the latter would have probably been called Asperger's in the past).

http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html

Anonymous said...

Any relation to the Julia from the Obama 2012 ads? The one who had no connection to any other human being, only to the government?

Matt said...

Have they been able to diagnose Elmo and Cookie Monster's neurological disorders yet? Poor guys.

chuck said...

>"It is exactly so they can break the stereotype."

Should have been an autistic bunny rabbit. What does Sesame Street have against rabbits?

Fen said...

Why are there no autistic Avengers? Social Justice Powers, activate!

Birches said...

The Outrage Machine strikes again.

Ann Althouse said...

I was reminded of the Ray Stevens song too.

It is a good lesson for the very young, even if it's propaganda.

The song told children that all the other children want to be friends and have friends, even though some might seem like they don't. That's good info for a kid!

Char Char Binks said...

There shouldn't even be Sesame Street, or any children's "educational" TV. It doesn't teach them much at all, except for bad grammar and bad manners ("Me want cookie!") and a few words of Spanish. Sesame teaches how to count to ten, or whatever, and the alphabet, but every kid learns those things anyway. Everyone under 50 in the US knows "abierto", and "cerrado" from the show, but how many actually learn a foreign language? It mostly wastes their time while "entertaining" them, time that should be spent with A PARENT or two, with someone who engages them, plays with them, and READS TO THEM.

tim in vermont said...

Of course the character is female. They want viewers to feel empathy. Nobody is going to empathize with a boy. Yeesh! This stuff is so simple.

Scott said...

"I was reminded of the Ray Stevens song too."

I actually love that song as well. Musically and lyrically it's got monster hooks, it's got Gospel elements in it, and it's a very clean sounding song. And it's compelling because it reflects the singer-songwriter's heartfelt sentiment, which incidentally I'm on the same page with.

Contrast this with what CTW is doing with Sesame Street.

Shawn Levasseur said...

"Contrast this with what CTW is doing with Sesame Street."

It's no longer CTW (Children's Television Workshop), it's now Sesame Workshop.

Filed under "when the heck did that happen?"

Scott said...

I stand corrected. In orthopaedic shoes, even.

furious_a said...

If your precious snowflake is a bully, it is usually a learned behavior at home. And SJW are notorious bullies.

And, of course, if one's own child stands up to bullies in the only way that makes a difference (this includes kids standing up for their tormented friends), they will get a visit to the principal's office, a reprimand and a referral to the District Counselor and a BOLO letter in their permanent file.

Fernandinande said...

holdfast said...
totally non-verbal kid rocking himself in the corner,


Non-verbal kids rock!

Sigivald said...

There's also criticism of "Sesame Street" for making the character a girl when boys are much more likely to be autistic. One answer is: "It is exactly so they can break the stereotype." But, somebody says, that's "marginalizing boys with autism." Somebody else says having a girl exemplify autism is like have a male breast cancer spokesperson.

And this is exactly why "representation" is doomed to fail, and this will only ever be an obvious token. (Which is not actually a huge deal, since it's a token muppet, rather than a real human being who has a position only because of their Status As A Token Whatever, mind you.)

We don't need a muppet for every "group"; thinking we do leads to nobody caring about any of them, because we'll have hundreds, each of which is simply a transparent representative of A Group.

Ugh.

Crimso said...

'There's also criticism of "Sesame Street" for making the character a girl when boys are much more likely to be autistic. One answer is: "It is exactly so they can break the stereotype." But, somebody says, that's "marginalizing boys with autism." Somebody else says having a girl exemplify autism is like have a male breast cancer spokesperson.'

Letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. Social justice bullshit could only ever go in this direction. Who's the victimiest victim? Gotta get to the root of that question. For justice. As if the universe (which is throwing a good-sized chunk of rock at us out of left field next weekend) gives a fuck.

Paddy O said...

Did you ever see I Am Big Bird. Surprisingly very interesting and good.

Chris N said...

Perhaps when Julia marries the gov't, uncreative, didactic clunky children's art is the result.