News: Sesame Street Ups Ante, Creates First Muppet W/ Parent In Jail [Video]

Tuesday, Jun 18, 2013 8:34AM

Written by Cyrus Langhorne

Children's series "Sesame Street" is looking to connect even deeper with its young audience by introducing the first muppet to have a parent behind bars.

Buzz behind the unexpected move bubbled online Monday (June 17) evening.

One in 28 children in the United States has a parent who is incarcerated. That's more than the number of kids with a parent who is deployed in the armed services. The Sesame Workshop has created the "Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration initiative to help raise awareness of this issue that doesn't get talked about much, because of the social stigma. (WILX News)

While known for being a longstanding children's television series, this new plan will start off virally.

Meet Alex, the first Muppet to have a dad in jail. According to a Pew Charitable Trusts report, one in 28 children in the United States now has a parent behind bars -- more than the number of kids with a parent who is deployed -- so it's a real issue, but it's talked about far less because of the stigma. That's why the Sesame Workshop says it created the "Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration" initiative, an online tool kit intended to help kids with a parent in prison find support and comfort, and provide families with strategies and tips to talk to their children about incarceration. (NBC News)

The idea reportedly came from the massive amount of men and women locked up.

Sesame Street has always made it part of its larger mission to address all children, not just the ones with traditional families or easily digestible experiences. In the latest move toward that goal, the popular children's program created an online toolkit, titled "Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration," for those struggling to raise a child who has an incarcerated parent. Released just in time to help kids in need get through Father's Day, the toolkit has its detractors. Alex Jones naturally went into full-blown conspiracy theory mode, calling it a "propaganda program designed to help children accept the fact that daddy is in jail" by dangerously telling kids that "all you have to do is talk about your feelings, draw a few pictures, write letters to your dad, and toddle off to visit him in jail every now and then and everything will be all rainbows and lollipops." (Better to tell them ... what?) Mike Riggs at Reason was also angry, though not at Sesame Street but at the U.S. government for incarcerating so many people that these kinds of materials are necessary. He points out that nearly 7 million people are under correctional supervision in this country, writing, "congratulations, America, on making it almost normal to have a parent in prison or jail." (Slate)

The new strategy has sparked various reactions from celebrities like comedian Gilbert Gottfried.

"Sesame Street is now going to feature a Muppet in jail. Tune in this week when he gets raped by Elmo.," he playfully tweeted June 17. (Gilbert Gottfried's Twitter)

Check out footage of Sesame Street's "Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration."

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