Monday, October 17, 2011

Occupy Sesame Street: Subversive Messages from Slovenia to DC

Maryland Juice decided to take a break from politics and check out some subversive art this week. I caught populist musical Les Misérables in DC, as well as the psychedelic dance-cirque Fuerza Bruta in NYC. Les Mis is running at the Kennedy Center through the end of the month, and for those who are unfamiliar with the plot, it kicks off with a man serving years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread. Not a bad time for this story to roll through Washington....

Fuerza Bruta, on the other hand, has no words but still manages to condemn worker-exploitation in NYC's fashion industry (check out their Youtube trailer at the bottom of this post). It is hard for me to avoid noticing these subversive themes in current pop culture, given the waves of protest seemingly sweeping the globe. Indeed, Les Mis itself is a tale of class oppression in France, by way of a British musical that spread around the globe. Fuerza Bruta was developed by Argentinians, before making its way to New York.

Today, protestors are gravitating toward a new icon of subversion: Sesame Street. I caught the photo below on a certain former Maryland blogger's Facebook page:

Image Source:

You may already be aware that the #occupy movement finally hit Sesame Street -- and that the movement was sparked by a Twitter hashtag for #occupysesamestreet, leading to lots of news coverage and now a website. But I was also unaware that while protestors were using Sesame Street as a humorous vehicle for their message, the show's producers themselves, had already begun altering their programming. As MSNBC recently wrote:
In a clear sign of the times we live in, the upcoming season of the perennial PBS children's program Sesame Street will include an impoverished Muppet named Lily. Sesame Street has put out the video included below on YouTube introducing the very purple puppet. In the clip Lily talks about how she and her family aren't always sure where their next meal will come from. She also explains how she receives breakfast and lunch each school day through a free lunch program (see preview below):


If I'm not mistaken, Montgomery County is still among the richest counties in America, and yet we now have nearly 40% (maybe more?) of our public school students eligible for Free and Reduced Meals. Is the DC Metro region really "recession-proof" or is it just recession-proof relative to the rest of the country? Our county's poor might not agree that everything is sunshine in MoCo right now. But apparently its not just in the Middle East and Wall Street/Sesame Street that people are protesting. My Indian friend who lives in the UK, was traveling through Slovenia and passed the following photo to me (from a store window):

That's right folks, we've resorted to fighting the Koch brothers and the GOP (and even some Democrats), using puppets, French musicals and Argentinian dancers. God Bless America!

...and here's to hoping the MoCo curfew proposal is generating a new wave of future progressive activists. The Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition has already jumped on board to support the young people's movement in MoCo. But they ask a very adult question: just how much time and money is the County Executive putting into promoting the curfew:
It seems disrespectful of the legislative process to be using taxpayer money to manipulate the public on a controversial issue councilmembers have not voted on yet. More importantly, it’s disrespectful of the public....  It seems unfortunate and wrong that the  youthful, spirited participants in that Town Hall may have been part of a sham event — one that pretended the public still has input to a decision that seems to already have been reached.

In the meantime, you can see the Fuerza Bruta trailer below.

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