donderdag, januari 16, 2003

AIDS Muppets: Next Up, Sesame Street Turns Into Crack Ghetto

A muppet is defined as a creature that is manipulated by a puppeteer with at least one hand inside the muppet itself. Most of us have heard about, at one time or another, "famous" Muppets like Kermit the Frog, a green fleece frog who made it big as a Utopian, benevolent television hero and movie star, or Miss Piggy, an overweight, porcine pig who fancied herself a leading lady but in reality was little more than a bloated, self-important bimbo. But until now, few had heard of Kami, the HIV-positive muppet.

"We are living in a society that is very stigmatising and discriminatory," said Musa Njoko, a South African AIDS activist. The introduction of Kami "is going to create a culture of acceptance."

The culture Kami was created in is South Africa which has one of the world's fastest growing HIV/AIDs populations and with a total of 4.2 million infected people, South Africa has the largest number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the world. Already, 1 in 4 South African women between ages 20 and 29 are infected with the virus and nearly 20% of its population.

While Kami is designed to serve in a cultural fight against the stigmatization of and discrimination against those diagnosed as HIV-positive, it/he/she doesn't do much to explain to anyone how she became infected in the first place.

An AIDS dispute came to wider international attention two years ago, with a South African government reluctance to use AZT to prevent transmission of HIV from pregnant women to their children. The reasons are unclear, but many treatment activists in South Africa and elsewhere think the government fears that providing antiretrovirals to prevent transmission would lead to demands for antiretroviral treatment for everyone who needed it, demands which the government could not fulfill, given current prices and international trade rules. Whatever the reason, South African President Thabo Mbeki raised concerns by citing reports of AZT toxicity, which many believe came to his attention through AIDS dissident sites on the Internet--despite the worldwide consensus that the benefit of using AZT or other antiretroviral treatment to reduce mother-to-infant HIV transmission greatly outweighs the risk.

The widespread belief in South Africa that having sex with a virgin will cure or prevent the disease has led in the past to an increasing number of infant rape.

Now, a muppet is supposed to do a better job of educating them.

And what a job it's doing, combined with another muppet, Neno, singing catchy songs like: "I have hair and you have hair, la dee dum, we are the same," croons the red Muppet Neno. "I have AIDS and you don't, tra la la, we are different," hums his mustard-colored friend. The two burst into a song and dance routine: "Oooo, we love one another. Same and different, yeah."

Yeah, right. Next thing you know, they'll be having Israeli and Palestinian muppets singing together under a hail of muppet IDF semi-automatic fire and rocks hurled from intifada teenage muppets...oh, wait a minute. They already have that with the Puppets of Peace, the Hebrew Rehov Sumsum and the Arabic Shara'a Simsim show that creates two interconnected Sesame Streets, one Israeli, one Palestinian, whose residents live in proximity to each other but somehow DON'T KILL EACH OTHER. How's that for a fantasy land?

I'm now convinced they'll make muppet shows and characters out of any serious world problem that can be trivialized, write a few catchy lyrics, promote a peace, love and understanding agenda and continue to brainwash kids against the evils of thinking for themselves. In light of that, here are a few ideas:

Animosity Strasse where a Neo-Nazi skinhead muppet dates a Turkish immigrant muppet in a German elementary school. Together they sing Das Deutschlandlied and drink beer from large muppet steins, arm in arm.
Pyongyang Street where an emaciated, malnourished North Korean muppet willing to trade nuclear weapons in exchange for food with a wealthy, imperialist American muppet sings songs like Barry McGuire's Eve of Destruction.
Blood for Oil Street where the Iraqi despot muppet is sold that otherwise innocent American children buy en masse just so they can tear them apart in the streets, rip the stuffing out of the Iraqi despot muppet, stomp it into the ground all the while chanting "war criminal!" "blood for oil!" and "kill the evil dictator!" over and over. (Hey, I've SEEN it in the streets of Des Moines!)

These are of course, just a few ideas. I'm sure the wonderful folks at The Children's Television Sweatshop will be happy to come up with some more. Just as soon as they finish eating their happy meals and brainwash candy.

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