I believe in television.
Let me back up.
I was probably raised by television more than I was raised by human beings. Spent more time with the television than I spent with my mom and dad growing up, by a large margin. I've got a deep connection with all the things I watched as a kid.
I'm not saying any of this is good. Obviously for me, all that bullshit influences what I do creatively. I might be a more emotionally balanced human being if I'd had a bit more human interaction as a child... but who gives a shit about me as a human being?
But I do believe in the power of television. Not just to teach a kid letters and numbers, but the core values of a decent society.
This isn't a review, but I was kind of moved by The World According to Sesame Street
. It's not a great documentary, and I'm totally aware of how it played on my nostalgia for the show... but it has some terrific moments.
Essentially, a depiction of how the Sesame Workshop
, formerly the Children's Television Workshop, extends the "social experiment" of "Sesame Street" to other countries, working with the local people to establish shows that aspire to speak to the specific needs of their people.
We see the shaky development of two Kosovar "Sesame" programs: one for the Albanians, one for the Serbs...
We see the grossly ignorant uproar
over the creation of a muppet that is HIV+
. (Created specifically and exclusively
for the South African version of Sesame Street
, to help dispel ignorance and promote acceptance.)
But watching the doc, there were two bits that got to me... I'll just spoil them here.
We follow the development of an Indian Sesame Street ("Sisimpur"
), which takes a while. Working with a local production company, assembling the local talent, assessing the specific needs of the children there, sketching out the "local muppets" to be created. It obviously takes some time. But everyone involved is so enthusiastic about the project... and the day comes when the local puppeteers actually get their puppets. And it's just incredible. This woman takes these things out of a box, one by one, and hands them to their respective performers. It's like Christmas day. You see these grown people hugging their muppets as if they were children. These things that were just ideas and sketches have suddenly been rendered felt! And you can see, with the artistry of the local puppeteers, they'll be brought fully to life...
The second bit that got to me was the end sequence. And it's fairly obvious. A sequence depicting all these different children from around the world, watching all their unique, local iterations of "Sesame Street". A village's worth of children gathered around a television that's been carted out for them. Smiling faces. Local muppets. It may be slightly cheap and propagandy, but I am such a sucker for all that bullshit.
Don't know if it'll ultimately prevent kids from becoming terrorists or engaging in civil wars -- I guess that's the "cultural experiment" of it -- but I think it'll help them, at least in the short term. That's what's so cool about television. If used properly, it can really reach people...
If not used properly... well, it produces Malice.