December 3, 2021
Big Bird backlash: Vax lands even Muppet in political flap

Big Bird backlash: Vax lands even Muppet in political flap

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Smokey Bear taught youngsters the significance of stopping wildfires. McGruff the Crime Canine warned them to not discuss to strangers. And in 1972, Big Bird lined up on “Sesame Street” to obtain a measles vaccine as a part of a marketing campaign to get extra kids inoculated towards the illness.

However when that very same iconic, 8-foot-tall kids’s character tweeted final weekend that he had been vaccinated towards COVID-19, conservative politicians instantly pushed again.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican, grilled Big Bird for what he known as “government propaganda.” Fox News contributor Lisa Boothe described it as “brainwashing children” and “twisted.”

“My wing is feeling a little sore, but it’ll give my body an extra protective boost that keeps me and others healthy,” Big Bird tweeted.

“Sesame Street” has lengthy confronted grumbles from conservatives sad with its connections to U.S. public broadcasting, which receives federal funding. But this newest fallout marked a brand new contentious flashpoint that has plagued earlier rollouts of the vaccine, simply because the shot turns into out there to kids between the ages of 5 and 11.

Practically 50 years in the past, when the present was in its third season, “Sesame Street” inspired youngsters to get the measles vaccine by exhibiting Big Bird and different kids getting the injection. The transfer was much like different public service campaigns that used beloved characters to assist educate kids life classes, together with discouraging littering, sporting seatbelts and searching each methods earlier than crossing the road.

“What Big Bird is doing is part of a long tradition. But what’s different now, of course, is that everything is political and everything is contentious,” said Thomas Doherty, an American studies professor at Brandeis University. “Something that we all wanted a year ago, the vaccine, is now this matter of great contention.”

Controversy on the intersection of TV and politics has popped up right here and there for many years. In 1952, “I Love Lucy” did not use the phrase pregnant as soon as in an episode that targeted on the title character, Lucy Ricardo, having a child after executives decided that doing so could be too scandalous.

The Seventies TV collection “All in the Household,” which explored all method of political and racial points in the family of a bigoted man from the New York Metropolis borough of Queens, confirmed the character Maude opting to get an abortion a 12 months earlier than the U.S. Supreme Courtroom made Roe vs. Wade the legislation of the land; in response, a number of associates refused to air reruns of the episode.

In “The Puppy Episode” of “Ellen” that aired in 1997, Ellen DeGeneres made historical past as the primary prime-time lead on community TV to come back out as homosexual. It was an enormous cultural second, nevertheless it additionally sparked assaults from spiritual teams. ABC later positioned a warning about “adult content” when DeGeneres’ character kissed one other girl in a separate episode.

Practically 15 years in the past, PBS was denounced by the nation’s training secretary after it spent cash on a cartoon with lesbian characters. The episode of “Postcards From Buster” featured two lesbian {couples} whereas the title character, an animated bunny, was on a visit to Vermont — a state on the time that was recognized for recognizing same-sex civil unions when many others didn’t. PBS later determined to not distribute the episode to its stations.

“When you get a mass medium as dominant and powerful as television … that’s always going to be a battleground over what messages get out there,” stated Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Heart for Tv and Fashionable Tradition at Syracuse College.

Big Bird’s tweet ruffled others’ feathers at a time when academic messages directed towards kids are beneath elevated scrutiny. Faculties have seen an uptick in heated debates from annoyed mother and father and elected officers over how racial and social justice points are dealt with in school rooms and tutorial supplies. Most lately, Republican Glenn Youngkin received the Virginia governor’s race after seizing on conservatives’ frustrations with colleges.

In the meantime, training officers have confronted a number of conflicts on how they need to deal with masks and testing necessities throughout a pandemic. Some Republicans have pushed again towards advertising the COVID-19 vaccine on to minors.

In Tennessee, the state briefly halted its vaccine outreach to kids and fired its prime vaccination director after GOP leaders threatened to dissolve the well being company over advertising efforts to get kids vaccinated towards the illness. Throughout a gathering with division heads, Republican Rep. Scott Cepicky held up a printout of the advert that includes a smiling teen with a Band-Support who had lately been vaccinated and known as it “reprehensible.”

The GOP-controlled Basic Meeting later handed laws banning sure minors as younger as 14 from getting the shot with out parental consent — an possibility that was beforehand out there, albeit used occasionally. The measure, which Republican Gov. Invoice Lee promised to signal this week, has solely a handful of exceptions.

“It’s not surprising that the pandemic, vaccination and following public health advice might fall into this cultural battle or effort to leverage emotive issues to your political advantage if you’re a senator or a political candidate,” stated Colin Woodard, creator of “ American Character: The History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good.”

“The flashpoints in our tradition wars,” Woodard said, “are often flashpoints between an individual liberty and a common good perspective.”


Kimberlee Kruesi covers politics and the coronavirus pandemic for The Related Press. Comply with her on Twitter at

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