To an Antipodean of a certain age, the brownstones of Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing looked incredibly familiar. Not because we’d ever visited Stuyvesant Avenue, Brooklyn, or even New York, but because they looked like Sesame Street.
Such was the reach and power of the Children’s Television Workshop phenomenon. In making a concerted effort to connect with inner-city children in post-war America’s lower socio-economic neighborhoods, Sesame Street not only platformed and validated those same inner-city neighborhoods within American homes, but had also broadcast a version of them to the rest of the world.
I grew up in New Zealand with a version of that neighborhood as my kind-of babysitter, courtesy of well-worn VHS tapes of Sesame Street and The Muppet Show. And, when I saw Lee’s aforementioned classic (at probably too young of an age), detailing racial tensions and police brutality, wondered whether Oscar the Grouch was in Mookie’s trash can. I also grew up to be a puppeteer. Funny that.