For the first time in its decades-long career on-air, Sesame Street debuted its first family with two fathers on their new episode, “Family Day,” on HBO Max. The creators of the children’s show are taking the reins in celebrating Pride Month, teaching children the variety and validity of all types of families, and representing the family dynamic so many children are part of today.
“Sesame Street has always been a welcoming place of diversity and inclusion,” writes actor Alan Muroaka, the owner of Hooper’s Store, on Facebook. “So, I’m so excited to introduce Nina’s Brother Dave, his husband Frank, and their daughter Mia to our sunny street.”
In the episode co-directed by Muroaka, the show’s character, Nina, happily introduced her brother, Dave, and his husband, Frank, to their Family Day party last week. In the clip below, you’ll see that the introduction happened only with excitement and joy – no preface – treating the couples’ welcome as a regular hello and proving normalcy to its young audiences.
Many LGBTQIA+ parents have reacted enthusiastically about the airing of the episode, writing comments like, “Thank you for showing families like mine,” under the show’s social media pages. Having Dave and Frank as both a married couple and as fathers on the series is not only a celebration for members of the LGBTQIA+ community, but also their children.
The importance of seeing a family like Mia’s on a children’s show is significant. Without hearing any of the script or language, the visual impact alone of virtually meeting Mia’s dads on screen instills in children from a very young age that there can be families like thiers invited to celebratory gatherings just like everyone else can. It sets the precedent for a different kind of childhood for many, and it’s here where Sesame Street’s legacy continues.
On top of being an interactive form of entertainment, the show has always existed for and prioritized childhood education. The release of the episode celebrates Pride Month honestly, as it gives children a teachable moment, an epiphany, and somewhere to see themselves. Sesame Street’s integrity in using the episode to tell the story of a relevant fight to teach children acceptance and equality is what other companies and organizations that claim to celebrate Pride Month lack.
Sesame Street caters to children by providing educational entertainment. One of the most special things about the show is that it’s content is for a child to absorb alone. While a child could watch the show with their parents and vice versa, they never actually have to. The show is captivating and simple enough that a child can understand and learn from every scene by sitting in front of their screen by themselves. The difference between Sesame Street and corporations is that their “celebrations” of diversity and inclusion often lack a willingness to teach their audience, consumers, and employees. Instead, their willingness to say something comes from the desire to make a profit.
Companies, brands, and corporations cater to adults, or more specifically, adults with wallets. So when they speak or post about Pride Month then go back to their regular product promotion in July, or turn around to donate funding to anti-LGBTQIA+ organizations, their moral integrity is non-existent. The way that Sesame Street teaches its audience, rather than capitalizing off them, demonstrates the show’s honesty, and despite being a show for kids, it also proves that there is still a lot company and brand leaders can take away from it.
The show continues to change with the audiences of its time. Its creatives hint that having Wes and Mr. Elijah talk with Elmo about racial literacy and anti-racism to airing episodes that reflect different family structures is just a starting point. “By encouraging these much-needed conversations through Coming Together, we can help children build a positive sense of identity and value the identities of others,” said Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, Senior Vice President of Sesame Workshop in a statement back in March. It’s exciting to see, for future generations, which relevant conversations the series will tackle through their captivating and creative storytelling next.
Sesame Street is a beautiful way to bring up these conversations to children and an inspiring guide for parents on how to make the impact of those conversations last longer than one month of their lives. Their episodes, songs, and scenes continue to show that the moral of the story is to open the minds of young viewers – not to close them or profit off them, but to teach them in ways that aren’t forceful or inaccurate.
Companies need to learn that the mission behind supporting LGBTQIA+ members and other marginalized communities should be more about human acceptance and less about their dollar. It is not enough to post about Pride once a week during one month of the year. It’s time these communities are included, without hesitation or planning, every single time. Through simple joy and radiating acceptance, that’s the story “Family Day” told, and that’s what adults behind corporate chairs should be taking notes on. Perhaps Sesame Street isn’t just a show for kids.
Image via Sesame Workshop 2021 / Richard Termine