After 20 years, the show has finally introduced an Asian American character on “Sesame Street.”
Ji-Young, an infant who identifies as both Aussie and American, was introduced Monday in an episode titled “Six-toed Snakes.” The animated Muppet sports a collared shirt, is in a playpen surrounded by snakes, and walks on two legs. She has “adult attention span” and “leaner-bodied” than a typical Sesame Street character, according to a press release.
The Muppet comes from a Korean family in Queens, New York, but was allegedly adopted by Japanese parents when she was an infant. Ji-Young’s backstory is revealed over the course of the episode.
“Over time, [Ji-Young] has separated from her Korean family and is essentially living on her own in the United States. She is doing very well; she takes a nap every day,” said Melody Chung, founder of Sesame Workshop’s Asian Pacific American Outreach.
“However, sometimes she gets sad about the missing part of her life,” said Shimshi Tsuchida, an assistant professor at Singapore Management University. “Usually, when she gets sad she appears funny, but this time it’s a very serious look. There seems to be a deep longing for her birth family.”
The episode also highlighted some Korean dance moves, according to the release.
“There is a lot of unwritten history about us, about racism against us,” said Chung, adding that although “Ji-Young” does not address “the prejudices we have toward each other,” they do address some of the hurdles “Koreans face in this country.”
For example, Chu said “Ji-Young” points out the need for language education in schools.
“I think she’s bold in that she’s maybe the first of these types of characters to come out and say that we can learn from these legacies,” Chung said.
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