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Is the Economy Making Money for Sesame Street?
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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Meet Lily. She's a cute, spry little Muppet who apparently shares something in common with more than 15 percent of Americans — she's "living" in poverty. Never mind that she now has her own spot on one of the most popular TV shows of all time; she's dealing with hunger and not making ends meet like 46 million others in this country. By the way, that's more than 17 million children.

That's right: Sesame Street has now gone to the other side of the tracks.

"We thought long and hard about how do we really represent this [living in poverty] from a child's point of view?" Jeanette Betancourt, Sesame Workshop's senior vice president for outreach and educational practices, told the New York Times. Sesame Workshop is the non-profit educational organization behind "Sesame Street" and other related projects.

In case you missed it, Lily visited a community garden to get some food and volunteered at a "food pantry." Lily also discussed her family's hunger issues with the rest of the cast. Socially responsible, right? Ethically necessary, correct? Maybe not according to two things that have come up surrounding this light-bright Muppet and the worn patches in her jeans.

First, some folks with a little too much starch in their shirts aren't buying it and are using PBS to pimp slap the Obama Administration. In the FOX News interview, Andrea Tantaros asked, “I just don’t understand why this muppet is hungry. Obama has expanded food stamps, he’s expanded WIC, Women Infants in Children. Why is Lily hungry?” (No, the laugh track or cheap rimshot wasn't available for comment.)

Listen, I get it. I'm a proud daddy and when my munchkins were getting down with Elmo's World, the last thing I wanted my children to deal with were the ills of this world like bullying, bebe's kids, and peer pressure. But, there they were, coming out of Big Bird's beak like a pundit on national TV. If the question came up as the kids perked their heads up like prairie dogs, I would answer and create that family moment. Sure, I would curse Bert and Ernie's one-bedroom condo for doing it, but I would manage. But seriously? Politics?

I'm almost convinced that these soapbox thousandaires are eunuchs because no (good) parent would miss an opportunity to teach their children anything, much less something seen on Sesame Street. And then there's the second point of reference for this PR story: is this a CSR campaign or just pimping the poor state of affairs to get better ratings for the beleaguered show? I mean, there's more than six bajillion stories on the Intertube about Lily, the poverty-stricken Muppet. Aside from the awareness this is creating about hunger, I'm sure they don't mind more of those non-hungry people tuning in for further updates.

So, while it's stupid to throttle PBS for this (you know who you are) and a little PR never hurt anyone, I think we should discuss what's really going on: unemployment.

Come on! Who do you think is no longer going to care how to get to the new Section 8 housing on Sesame Street? Oscar. The dude lives in a trashcan, for crying out loud. You don't get much more poverty-stricken than that, but there's Lily with her sweet, electric pink demeanor kicking the grouch's can down the bug-invested alley he calls home. You know, if I was Oscar, I would be complaining to someone in HR. That is, if he could be heard over the loud grumblings on Sesame Street — and in Lily's tummy.


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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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