The First Asian-American Muppet


Lexi Ariete, Contributor

After fifty-two years, Sesame Street introduces their first Asian-American character, Ji-Young. Her name, translated from Korean, has the meaning of smart and courageous. Ji-Young enjoys playing the electric guitar and skateboarding. Ji-young is voiced by Kathleen Kim, a forty-one year old Korean-American. Sesame Street is attempting to bring recognition and representation to these communities. Due to the increase of circulation around the Black Lives Matter and Anti-Asian Hate Crimes within the past year, more pop culture is starting to jump into the equation, adding more representation for minorities. Sesame Street, being one of the companies to do so, wants to teach children about acceptance when it comes to different races, ethnicity, and culture that they may grow up with. Sesame Street is planning on having an episode called, “See Us Coming Together,” where all the neighbors that take part in Sesame Street come together to share something about their culture; food, activities, dance, etc. 

Although Ji-Young is the first Asian-American Muppet to appear on Sesame Street, she is not the first Muppet with an ethnic background to be introduced to the series. On October 15th, 2020, the Muppet, Tamir, was introduced to the show, with the Sesame Street Special, “Power of We.” Power of We focused on teaching the audience about the acceptance and pride of one’s culture, identity, and ethnicity. In this special, the younger cousin of Tamir, Gabrielle, is also introduced. In this special, Gabrielle and Tamir specifically talk about the topics of racism and injustice that occur around the world, and how kids can do their part in making the world a better place for everyone to enjoy. Abby Cadabby and Elmo join Tamir and Gabrielle on this special, with themselves “learning” about the lessons Gabrielle and Tamir teach them.

People who grew up with the show, have mixed feelings about this decision. There are people who believe that this is a smart move for Sesame Street; teaching kids about the problems within society. Teaching kids about important topics and having representation helps them learn acceptance and understanding skills. While they are young, the children can grasp onto the ability to be used to seeing Muppets from specific areas around the world. 

However, there are the few that think this move by Sesame Street is not very smart. People grew up with the Muppets being not one from a specific race or culture, but just creatures and animals that were pink, green, orange, etc. People think that Sesame Street is just trying to take advantage of the political and racial problems occuring around the world, and incorporating it into their show. Older generations want their kids to grow up with the classic characters that they grew up with, but maybe, it is time for a change. With Sesame Street wanting to help take action to teach their younger audience about the importance of acceptance and help prevent the spread of racism and discrimination, maybe more companies will help join in on teaching kids for the betterment of future generations. 




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Meet Ji-Young: Sesame Street’s first Asian American muppet