In Praise of a 'Girly' Muppet
DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:
The iconic children's show Sesame Street is taking a risk this season. Facing stiff competition from newer kid's programs like Dora the Explorer, the show has developed its first new character in 12 years. She's a girl, and a girly girl at that. Youth Radio's Alix Black says it's about time.
ALIX BLACK reporting:
I sometimes wear a pink tiara, and not just in the privacy in my home. I've worn it roaming the halls of my school or even the street of Atlanta. People probably wouldn't notice if I were five, but I'm a few months shy of eighteen and I'm constantly asked about my choice of headgear. My answer is this: too many girls these days are pressured into the role of aspiring doctor, or lawyer, or Wall Street trader. As a result, the ranks of fairy princesses are declining at an alarming rate. This is why I'm tickled - well, pink - about Sesame Street's newest female Muppet.
She's an enthusiastic and unrepentantly feminine little pixie by the name of Abby Cadabby. Abby is a girly girl character to contrast the show's rambunctious tomboy Zoe and bilingual guitar playing Rosita. Don't get me wrong. I'm a big proponent of gender equality. My parents firmly instilled in me the values of feminism. At the wise age of four I told the McDonald's cashier that asking if I wanted a boy toy or a girl toy was sexist. I then chose the Hot Wheels car.
I think that girls should be encouraged to look beyond gender roles but not to automatically shun anything considered girly. Parents who are overly concerned about their little girls turning into air headed Barbie wannabes aren't necessarily helping them. What's wrong with a pretty in pink girl who dreams of designing sparkly tutus for Chihuahuas but also might want to be a brain surgeon when she grows up?
Abby, who has just moved to Sesame Street from fairy land, is enthusiastic without a cheerleader's rah-rah or the diva tendencies of a certain tiny Disney fairy. Yet she's decidedly girly, an adjective which cannot be applied to any of the show's other characters. Sesame Street, which is going into its 37th season, somehow has no high profile female lead.
Abby Cadabby could change that. As someone who grew up with Sesame Street and preferred Bert and Ernie to the saccharine Barney, I trust the ever-PC folks over at Sesame Workshop to handle Abby well. They won't let her turn into a walking stereotype. At the same time I'm glad to see a puppet who clearly embraces her femininity instead of neutralizing it with gender ambiguous personality traits.
Maybe the introduction of Abby Cadabby will encourage a few more little, and not so little, girls to become aspiring fairy princesses.
ELLIOTT: Alix Black is a senior at Grady High School in Atlanta. Her essay was produced by Youth Radio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.