'Sesame Street' makes history as it adds first Asian American Muppet to cast

A new Muppet named Ji-Young will make history as the first Asian American muppet to join the cast of the iconic children’s show Sesame Street.

Per New York Times, the seven-year-old Korean American girl is slated to debut Thanksgiving Day as part of a special titled 'See Us Coming Together'.

Like many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, her identity will straddle two cultures, says Alan Muraoka, who plays the owner of Hooper's Store on the show and is also Asian American.

"She's a musician, she plays electric guitar, she's a girl of the very modern American fabric," he told NBC Asian America. "She recognizes the culture through her relatives - her grandmother, through her mother - and through the food, she eats and loves."

Ji-Young - who enjoys skateboarding and playing the guitar - revealed her favorite band is the punk rock group The Linda Lindas.

In the special - that centers around a Neighbor Day celebration and features celebrities ranging from Marvel's Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings star Simu Liu to Japanese tennis pro Naomi Osaka - another child tells Ji-Young to "go home" in an offscreen incident.

She subsequently seeks out friends and adults who, together, help her understand she's "exactly where she belongs," according to a press release on the episode.

The moment serves as an entryway into discussions around anti-Asian racism, as the show provides a viewing guide and resources to conduct those conversations, the release said.

Muraoka explained that the nationwide racial reckoning, spurred by events like the killing of eight people in Atlanta-area spas, most of them Asian women, and the heightened anti-Asian bias and attacks due to racist Covid-related stereotypes, pushed the show to further address racism and discrimination.

"People are seeing the need for it now, especially with the rise in American violence," Muraoka said. "I think it's absolutely because the nation as a whole woke up."

In a statement to the New York Post, Kay Wilson Stallings, the executive vice president of creative and production for the Sesame Workshop’s Coming Together initiative, said:

"Today, we uphold [Sesame Workshop’s] mission by empowering children and families of all races, ethnicities and cultures to value their unique identities."

The Coming Together initiative was launched last year following the death of George Floyd, the subsequent protests against police brutality and systemic racism, and the increase of anti-Asian attacks throughout the US.

The episode will be available on November 25 on PBS local stations, HBO Max, and the Sesame Street social media platforms.
[Source: Youtube]

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