Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Barrio Street

Was Sesame Street always so Latino? How did I not notice this as a kid? I remember Maria, one of the human characters. We all knew that Spanish was her first language. She was nice, and sang and hung out with the muppets and monsters and all was fine. I suppose that occasionally she spoke in Spanish, although I don’t believe it happened often. I clearly recall Grover, Cookie Monster, Bert and Ernie, Snuffy, and Oscar—and those guys are all still around, and they’re all still red-blooded North American critters, as far as I can tell.

But when did the Spanish word of the day get started? How did Spanish merit such an honor? The only other language that’s given its own prime spot on the show these days is sign language, and it’s certainly not a daily event. Huh? Where’s the French word of the day? I use those in my writing more than anything. How about a Chinese character of the day, since we know it’s just a matter of time until they overpower us with sheer numbers? Might as well start learning it now. Norwegian word of the day? Hawaiian? Gaillic? Lovely languages, all of them. So how did Spanish win the coveted prize? I know it’s the second-most spoken language here and all, or used to be—who knows now with the way things are always changing. But still—Spanish word of the day? Is this necessary?

And where did Rosita come from? Is she a more recent addition to the show? No other character has a specific ethnicity, as far as I know...

All I know is that we turned on the tube yesterday, in spite of my daily misgivings about television in general (seeing as TV rots your brain cells and all, you know—it’s true). And the episode of Sesame Street that unfolded before me was decidedly Mexican in nature. Spanish words, Hispanic children featured on the videos, Rosita strumming a guitar and singing, in Spanish of course... The final straw was Big Bird, directing a real, true kids’ mariachi band—and the song was “Long Live Mexico, Long Live America.” In that order.

Perhaps I’m a tad oversensitive to this issue; I did, after all, just see a very disturbing video on YouTube showing an American veteran who stormed a flagpole and removed, out of respect, his own flag from BELOW the Mexican flag under which it was flying. In Reno, Nevada. That’s right, this happened in the UNITED STATES. (See for yourself at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nONjlZ8YMkA)

We'll be taking a viewing hiatus from Barrio Street, whilst I ponder whether it receives any more airtime in our household. I’ve got nothing against Mexico—when it is located in Mexico, where it belongs. When it’s located in my country, or worse yet in my family room? For the edification (read between the lines: brainwashing purposes) of my naive, sponge-like preschooler? That’s an issue, folks. I ain’t no seƱora, and I’m not interested in becoming. I love a lot of the programming on WQED, and I can understand the attempt to reach many of the under-privileged children of our nation, but this feels a bit forced; I can’t condone handing ourselves over so easily.


Anonymous said...

That is EXACTLY why we stopped watching Sesame Street!!! Its been slowly changing for years. I dont get it either. They barely even have the English word of the day anymore. :(

Anonymous said...

You're absolutely right - Sesame was decidedly LESS "south of the border" years ago. I noticed it going Latino when my kids were just growing out of it. It's the same thing with Dora and it's a load of crap, I think, all aimed at the urban kids in this country who frankly need to FORGET their Spanish and learn English. Oh, fine, everyone don't get your shorts in an uproar. Ay-carumba! Maybe not forget, but make English Numero Uno. Lose the Spanish accent.

Anonymous said...

be careful, "they" will call you a bigot.

Mel said...

well, I'm glad it wasn't my imagination. I don't mind accents--people in America have had accents since they started coming here. It's the focus on only Spanish that gets me. And the fact that on the last show we watched, Spanish-speaking cultures actually got more attention than our own culture and the language that we speak here. if that makes me a bigot, then that's pretty sad. I just want fair representation of a) the United States and its people and b) the national language.

Cari Skuse said...

Don't get Mark started on this...he'll never stop.

If you think that today's Sesame Street is bad, then don't read this or you'll really be sad http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/18/magazine/18wwln-medium-t.html?_r=2&pagewanted=1&oref=slogin

Cari Skuse said...

Sorry. Here's the link:

Anonymous said...

Amen, sister! Do you think they're flying American flags in Mexico or having an English word of the day? Do you think their businesses have 800 numbers that allow you to "Press 2 for English"? It's simple: If you want to live here, work here, do business here, get your healthcare here, LEARN ENGLISH! Sesame Street should be helping Latinos (kids and their parents) do just that, not the other way around!

Mel said...

Cari, I checked that NYT link. Puke puke puke. (Other folks, if you also want to puke, you should read it too.)
And yeah, I think we'd be hard-pressed to find an American flag flying in any Spanish-speaking nation. Unless it's over the American embassy.

And, to be fair, I thought of another muppet that has an un-American ethnicity: the Count. I'm not sure what his ethnicity is, though... Transylvanian dialect of Russian?

Am I irked enough to write to Sesame Street? Maybe.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, and there's also the Swedish Chef (mork, mork, mork) and Beaker (of indeterminate ethnicity -- somewhere where they squeak like mice). I could like a Swedish word of the day...and I'm slowly learning Chinese from fortune cookies.