Sesame Street is introducing their first autistic character, Julia.
Sesame Street has never shied away from addressing hard hitting and important issues during their long run on television. When the actor, Harold Hooper, who played one of the local store owners, died in 1982 the makers of the show considered recasting the role. Instead it was decided to address the issue within the show and Big Bird was then shown coming to terms with his friends’ loss.
In 2002 Sesame Workshop announced that a new HIV-positive character, Kami, would be introduced as part of the South African and Nigerian versions of the show. Her character contracted the disease following a blood transfusion and she was subsequently orphaned when her Mother died of the illness.
And now, in 2015, we are introduced to Julia, Sesame Workshops’ first autistic character. The workshop has said that she will “Do things differently” when playing with her muppet friends. We want to create greater awareness and empathy.” Yaye!
I’ve always been an admirer of the work of Jim Henson and the Sesame Workshop. I’ve always admired that they are able to introduce new ideas and characters in order to address issues in a fun and educational way. These issues are not tackled through shock tactics or the sort of scare mongering that many other educationalists would force on their target audience but instead they are often drip fed subtly and delicately in order to better deliver the messages intended.
I believe that autistic characters are often poorly portrayed in popular media as idiot savants or as dangerous or as simply not able to function properly in society. Though some autistic people do struggle in society, it is more often than not the society’s failing and not theirs.
My son is autistic and my Wife has Asperger’s. And though she may at times struggle to cope with social situations, as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs (so sorry if I’m going on about it) I believe this is often because of the false and mixed messages that us NT’s send out in the varying forms of spoken and physical languages that we all speak.
I hope that Julia proves to be a success with those that are able to see Sesame Street as I do think that autistic people really are underrepresented in the media, and when they are it’s often an unrealistic or unfair characterisation designed purely for humour or to simply progress the narrative without actually discussing the person behind the Autism that the public often fail to see.
My wife is quirky, genuinely funny and one of the smartest people I know. Does she have Asperger’s? Yes. Would I change that? No. Would she change that? No. Does she struggle with social and work situations sometimes? Yes…but that’s only because she has not learned to talk the same bullshit language that NT’s speak. In a work situation how many of us have been left walking out of a meeting thinking “Oh my God, I can’t believe they’ve proposed that. That’s surely going to fail!” My wife on the other hand will be the one still sitting there with her hand up saying, “You do realise this is going to fail right?” But unlike all of the NT’s that then turn to stare at her in shock because she has dared to break the unwritten rule that “Yeah we all know it’s bollocks but that’s how it is” she will actually recite valid workable alternative solutions to the problems that the meeting was held to address in the first place. Oddly, this makes autistic people unpopular sometimes because us NT’s can sometimes have ridiculously large egos. (Oo-er) And we do like to show off our egos (Stop it now!) Moreover we like other people to rub our egos for us regularly. (Ok, that’s enough! Pervert!) And, as opposed to people with Asperger’s or sometimes Autism who can cut to the chase and avoid countless wasted reels of red tape, we NT’s will continue to go around the houses, skirting the issues, undermining the true value or importance of the issues being raised in order to continue navigating this bullshit office assault course of ego manufactured synthetic politics.
I don’t have a large Company. Actually, I don’t even have a Company at all, (actually, I’ve just checked. All I actually have is a broken pen and a packet of custard bream biscuits) but if I did I’d certainly have roles which would lend themselves to being filled by staff with Autism. I think autistic people can have some incredible talents and I can only hope that the introduction of Sesame Workshops’ Julia, along with other positive role models that may be introduced into other programs, slowly drip feeds into our young peoples’ psyche and mind-set so that one day employers, and society alike, will appreciate how much people with Autism/Asperger’s have to offer.
As ever, please feel free to leave comments or feedback about anything I’ve discussed or anything you feel I may have missed out, cheer, Ned.