By Colin Poon
In a year of historic firsts for the AAPI Community in the Media, I personally am most proud of our representation for the eyes of AAPI Youth. As embarrassing as it is, Sesame Street was one of my favorite shows as a child, just like many Americans since Sesame Street first officially aired on November 10th in 1969. And after more than 50 years of airing on PBS, they are introducing their first AAPI Muppet, Ji-Young.
According to the Associated Press, Ji-Young is depicted as a 7 Year Old, Korean American born in the USA. Her name is even a hidden hint to show that she belongs on the show, with Ji having the meaning of sesame, though the more traditional definition is smart or wise. And that plays along with the reasoning and need of the creation of Ji-Young as one of the characters on the show. As part of the “Coming Together” Initiative made by Sesame Workshop, Ji-Young was in part a way to combat Anti-Asian Hate and Asian stereotypes.
Even through Ji-Young’s personality, who loves to play the Electric Guitar as well as Skateboarding, she helps combat Asian stereotypes like the Model Minority myth. And the need for her presence was shown during an offscreen incident where one of the children tells Ji-Young to, “Go Home”, which shows the discrimination that Asians often face abroad in Western Countries, where they are seen as “perpetual foreigners”.
But Ji-Young isn’t just a way to combat hate, she is something that promotes inclusion and diversity in the multicultural aspect that is so lovingly taught by Sesame Street. One of my favorite ways that she does this is by cooking tteokbokki, which are chewy rice cakes, with her halmoni (Grandmother), according to AP News. This brash yet loving character truly truly embodies what should and is proper AAPI Representation.
All in all, Ji-Young is not just a symbol of inclusion and racial justice, with one of Sesame Workshop’s executives promising that she will be very active on the show. But Ji-Young will debut amongst AAPI Icons like Simu Liu and Naomi Osaka during the historical moment in introducing an AAPI Character to a Young Children’s Audience across the nation. But this certainly will not be the last time that something like this happens, and I cannot wait to see what is next for AAPI Media Representation in the coming new year.
Arizona PBS: https://azpbs.org/2021/11/sesame-street-special-introduces-new-korean-muppet/
Sesame Street on IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0063951/