Sesame Street has one Spanish-speaking character already, a little lamb named Ovejita, who likes visiting school with Murray Monster. And a sharp-eyed friend noticed that the show is casting a second bilingual character who not only speaks Spanish, but is “comfortable with multiple Spanish dialects and accents.” Strategically, this is probably a smart step?if Sesame Street wants to fulfill its mission of providing quality early-education television to a growing audience, having characters who speak Spanish is a good way to expose children whose first language is English to a language it may be useful for them to know later, and it may give families whose first language is Spanish a door into a show that would otherwise seem unfamiliar. There’s been a lot of conversation lately about the fact that Hispanic and Latino viewers aren’t turning in to broadcast television, and it’s smart business and educational sense to try to meet the members of those audiences who are looking for some Spanish-language programming where they are in a way that matches Sesame Street‘s mission.
I’m also impressed that the call requests multiple Spanish dialects and accents. One of the things I think is most important in talking about diversity is the recognition that one black character can’t represent the entirety of the black experience, that “Latino” is not a monolithic thing, nor is “gay.” It’s very easy for culture to fall into a rut, where because we have dandy-ish gay male characters, or tough black male characters, or Sofia Vergara on Modern Family, the assumption is that we’re covered and we don’t have to look for new kinds of characters and new kinds of stories. If Sesame Street can help build the expectation in its young audience that diversity itself will be diverse, it’ll be doing the larger culture a favor along with teaching a little Spanish.