The first Asian American Muppet arrives on "Sesame Street"

“Sesame Street” welcomes its first Asian American muppet to the neighborhood. Ji-Young, a 7-year-old Korean American who enjoys playing...


“Sesame Street” welcomes its first Asian American muppet to the neighborhood. Ji-Young, a 7-year-old Korean American who enjoys playing electric guitar and skateboarding, will make her debut next week.

Ji-Young will not only share his love for rock music and tteokbokki, or Korean rice cakes, on the show. She will also play a role in the fight anti-Asian prejudice and harassment at a time of heightened awareness around the issue.

Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization that produces “Sesame Street,” said it created Ji-Young to support families of Asian and Pacific Island heritage as part of its racial justice initiative, Come together. Sesame Workshop introduced the initiative in the summer of 2020, after the murder of George Floyd and as racism and violence targeting Asians and Asian Americans increased during the pandemic.

“Sesame Street” has been on the air for over 50 years, but Ji-Young is his first Asian American muppet.

The show had human characters and guests of Asian descent, including Alan Muraoka, who is of Japanese descent and owner of fictional Hooper’s store. In June, “Sesame Street” released a video titled “Proud of Your Eyes,” in which Mr. Muraoka helped Analyn, a Filipino American, after being teased about the shape of her eyes. Muraoka and Wes, a muppet, told Analyn that her eyes are beautiful and part of what makes her who she is.

Nancy Wang Yuen, professor of sociology at Biola University in La Mirada, California, and expert in race and racism in Hollywood, said that when she first immigrated to the United States from Taiwan at the age of 5, she learned more English in “Sesame Street” than in ESL classes from his school.

The show was more diverse than most children’s shows of the time, but Ms. Yuen said she was missing characters who resembled her when she was growing up in the 1980s and early 1990s.

“I think having this muppet who is more culturally specific and who is able to speak another language, especially at this time of rising anti-Asian hatred, is so essential to the performance,” he said. she declared.

Ji-Young made his television debut on NBC’s “Today” show on Monday. “You know what’s really cool about ‘Sesame Street’ is that no matter what you look like, or how you play or where you come from, you belong, and it’s really cool,” Ji said. -Young.

It will be featured on “Sesame Street” during a special episode Thanksgiving Day on HBO Max and on local PBS stations. The show “See Us Coming Together: A Sesame Street Special” will also star Simu Liu and Naomi Osaka.

Mr. Liu, who plays the main character in “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” welcomed Ji-Young to “Sesame Street” on Twitter Monday, after the Associated Press reported on the beginnings of the new muppet.

“I have had the privilege of experiencing so many amazing things over the past two years, but it definitely stands out,” Mr. Liu said. “Welcome to Sesame Street, Ji-Young! I’m so glad I got to hang out with you.

In the special episode, the people of Sesame Street celebrate Neighbors Day, a community event with food, music and games. Someone offscreen tells Ji-Young to “come home,” then the other residents, guest stars, and friends like Elmo offer their support.

Ji-Young’s puppeteer is Kathleen Kim, who is of Korean descent. “My only hope, of course, is to help teach what racism is, to help children be able to recognize it, and then speak out against it,” Ms Kim, 41, told the AP. . “But my other hope for Ji -Young is that she just normalizes seeing different kinds of kids on TV.”



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