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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sexual Ethics and Politics » Sesame Street to Introduce HIV-Positive Muppet

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Author Topic: Sesame Street to Introduce HIV-Positive Muppet
DC_WillowFan
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Here's the address to read the whole article: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/nm/20020711/tv_nm/life_sesamestreet_dc_1

So, what do you think about the idea ?

I think it's fine for a continent like Africa because of their big problem with the virus, but I don't think it'll get approved for US tv show. At least, the concept is there, so let's see what happens with it.

David

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angelicmadrigal
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Personally I have no problem with it.
I mean there is a chance that children in the US may have a class mate with this virus.

But explaining how the virus can be passed, are 3-5 year olds really going to understand that? Kids are smart. If they can find some way to simplify it by saying it's passed from one peson to another by body fluids, I guess that miggt be enough. But it would definately be something kids should watch with a parent, at least the first episode.


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Dzuunmod
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This seems like a decent enough idea for Africa, but I'm not sure that I'd want to see it in North America. To bring it to North America would be furthering the politicization of AIDS.

Last year in this country, AIDS/HIV was the 15th leading cause of death, behind such killers as cerebrovascular diseases, unintentional injuries, suicide and neurotic disorders, personality disorders and other nonpsychotic mental disorders.

In all of Canada last year, just 626 cases of AIDS/HIV lead to death. Seems to me like that's probably well behind the public's perception of the disease.

Yes, it's terrible that people die from AIDS, and yes, we should all do everything we can to make sure we don't get it. If in Africa, they want to raise awareness of the disease among children I support that. However - speaking in terms of this part of the world - we should try and raise awareness about things that kill lots of people, before we try and raise awareness about things that kill few people.

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Heather
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I'd actually be more in favor of simply approaching the matter as addressing terminal illness in general. I'm certainly not saying that to try and closet HIV or AIDS, but out of lots of years working with small children.

Lots of children are impacted by other children or adults with terminal diseases. Rather profoundly, and generalizing it allows that to be applicable no matter WHAT the disease, because to a five-year-old, there isn't a difference between an AIDS-related death and one from leukemia. And really, I have to question the wisdom of even having it be specifically HIV, because that seems to -- as ever -- place it outside all other diseases, which is something that has hindered addressing and researching it (and funding that research) from the onset.

In terms of watching such things with or without a parent, I'm of the mind that television shouldn't be a babysitter to begin with, but dealing with death and kids is tough and tricky, so anything addressing death and serious illness is going to require some Q&A regardless of what disease we're talking about.

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Confused boy
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Sounds like a joke to me but if it isnt...

...seems to be trivialising the issue to me. It is also hasnt been done before on any other issues. Has their been a muppet that smokes and suffers from respiratory problems as a result? And think of the way they dealt with homelessness in Sesame Street with that green character... "Grouch" was it? Was that truly beneficial? I would be rather wary of the whole idea.

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Dzuunmod
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I think that's a good way of looking at it, Miz S. When I was young, I don't recall children's shows spending an awful lot of time on the subject of terminal illnesses.

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"I'd like to be an astronaut, but if I can't be an astronaut, I'd like to be a coach driver."
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PoetgirlNY
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I don't know if it still does, but when I was a kid, Sesame Street had a deaf character named Linda who spoke in ASL and taught a bit of it to the kids.

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DarlingBri
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Personally, I am all for it if it normalises people with HIV. In a country like SA where huge percentages of the population are HIV+, it is totally normal to have HIV+ parents, family, kids in your classes or to be HIV+ yourself.

But it's every bit as normal in the US. So if it's appropriate in SA, it's apparopriate in the USA, too.

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Hope this helps,
--Bri


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Hotbuttered101
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quote:
Originally posted by DarlingBri:
Personally, I am all for it if it normalises people with HIV. In a country like SA where huge percentages of the population are HIV+, it [b]is totally normal to have HIV+ parents, family, kids in your classes or to be HIV+ yourself.

But it's every bit as normal in the US. So if it's appropriate in SA, it's apparopriate in the USA, too.

[/B]


Yes, there is a large percentage of people who are HIV+ in South Africa but it is certainly not normal to have HIV+ parents or to be HIV+ yourself. You would be hardpressed to find anyone in Milnerton high, Sacs, Bishops, Camps Bay High (A mix of private and public schools) who has AIDs. It is not as clearcut as that.

I'm not saying that AIDs doesn't affect affluent or middle class people (it certainly does) but the bulk of people who have AIDs or are HIV+, are poor. Why did they get AIDs? One main reason is because of a lack of education. Places like Gugulethu or Kayelisha are filled with people who have AIDs. The lack of education of many of these HIV+ adults is one after effect of apartheid. You also have to mix in the cultural background of the HIV+ person. Does the person visit a sangoma/witch-doctor or does the person visit a GP. If it's the former there may be a problem. Some Sangomas proliferate dangerous AIDs myths eg. Sleep with a virgin and you will be cured. This leads to other problems such as rape.

Private schools in SA are different to private schools in the US (I might be wrong here). Middle class to affluent people attend private schools and public schools.

Nowadays, schools have very good life-skills/guidance/sex ed. classes. I go to a private (all inclusive) Jewish school and our sex ed. classes are brilliant. We go through everything. We do AIDs, Rape, Date Rape, being gay, sex, dating, STDs etc. Basically my school is middle class so that is expected. In most schools there are good sex ed. classes (be it a public or private school).

Poor areas will have schools where the education is not very good. You will find this in most countries. The problem is that this is not the only factor that leads to ignorance of AIDs in SA. If you happen to live in a poor area, you visit a sangoma when you're ill, and you've been brought up with a mix of non-western(your culture) and western (school etc), and your parents have very strong cultural beliefs; Who are you going to believe? Your Guidance teacher or your sangoma, someone who makes up a huge part of your culture?

I know this is almost off topic but I just wanted to reply to the comments about Aids in Africa and how deep it really goes. Going back to Sesame Street. Firstly: What are the aims of an HIV+ muppet? Is it to educate young people about discrimination towards HIV+ people? Is it to teach young people who may never be taught correctly about AIDs?
The first reason is pretty damn brilliant. Prejudices are taught to us. If we are taught to open our minds at a young age we will not discriminate. The thing is...television shows aimed at young children are supposed to be light hearted. Many parents sit their children infront of the TV while they work, clean etc. Whether it's right or wrong...They do it. A topic like AIDs is vast and the child will need to ask questions and get answers. If we're dealing with things like AIDs on childrens TV, why not introduce another 'heavy' topic such as homosexuality via a gay muppet.

I'm not really sure where I stand but I do feel that having an HIV+ muppet may be the wrong way to go. I think an episode or two on certain intense issues maybe a better way to do it. I agree with DarlingBri...If it's suitable for SA it's suitable for the USA. Kids are the same all over the world.

Sorry...I know this has been long.



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Dzuunmod
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I have to disagree with the bits about the kids in the US and South Africa being the same, and kids should all learn about the same stuff, all over the world.

Fact is, different stuff happens in different places. Sesame Street in Canada has francophone characters, because the francophone population here is sizable. Francophone characters just wouldn't make sense in the two aforementioned countries.

The thing is, you have to prioritize. If there were a Sesame Street channel, I'd be all for teaching kids all around the world about AIDS/HIV, but there isn't. When you've only got an hour of airtime a day, there just isn't time to teach kids about differences in race, and language, and religion, and appearances, and health - at least not in specifics like we're talking here. I think you have to deal with things that are regionally relevant, and then deal with broad topics.

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logic_grrl
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I'd be really concerned about saying that HIV/AIDS is not "regionally relevant" to the US (or Canada, Europe, etc.)

At the moment, there has been a decline in the death rate from AIDS in the West because of the impact of the new drug treatments in prolonging life, but it's clear that these are far from being a cure and don't work for everyone. So HIV is still very much an issue, and one that affects young people in particular.

According to the CDC, "in 1999, HIV was the fifth leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 25 and 44. Among African American men in this age group, HIV infection has been the leading cause of death since 1991. In 1999, among black women 25-44 years old, HIV infection was the third leading cause of death. Many of these young adults likely were infected in their teens and twenties. It has been estimated that at least half of all new HIV infections in the United States are among people under 25."

It's clear that the situation is far worse in developing countries, but I don't think people in industrialized countries can afford to get complacent about it.


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DarlingBri
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quote:
It has been estimated that at least half of all new HIV infections in the United States are among people under 25."

Thank you, logic_grrl.

Now, every single one of those people under 25 in the US were all 5 year olds at one point. There is very much a place for HIV education in the mainstream American market, and SS is as good a place as any.

Nobody objected to the ASL character, and there are more HIV+ people than profoundly deaf people in the US. These characters are about normalisation, education, and compassion -- not about percentages.

Normalisation is simply about not making people who are different into people who are "other." It's about communicating the message "she's a kid just like me and she's HIV positive!" rather than "he's a deadly freak, nothing like me." The latter makes it easy to push individuals and groups of people to your cultural perifery.

Personally, I would have more problems with a blanket terminally ill character. I am very hopeful that the new muppet will be living with HIV rather than dying of AIDS. It's not the same issue to me.


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Hotbuttered101
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quote:
Originally posted by Dzuunmod:
I have to disagree with the bits about the kids in the US and South Africa being the same, and kids should all learn about the same stuff, all over the world.

Fact is, different stuff happens in different places. Sesame Street in Canada has francophone characters, because the francophone population here is sizable. Francophone characters just wouldn't make sense in the two aforementioned countries.

The thing is, you have to prioritize. If there were a Sesame Street channel, I'd be all for teaching kids all around the world about AIDS/HIV, but there isn't. When you've only got an hour of airtime a day, there just isn't time to teach kids about differences in race, and language, and religion, and appearances, and health - at least not in specifics like we're talking here. I think you have to deal with things that are regionally relevant, and then deal with broad topics.


When I said that all kids around the world are the same I was speaking generally. I was not referring to a certain culture or religion. I meant that young children are easily influenced by what they hear, what they see or what they are told. They want answers. It doesn't matter if you're a South African child or an American child.

I agree that some issues would not work everywhere but I do not feel that HIV is an issue only relevent to Africa. It certainly isn't.


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Dzuunmod
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The problem with stats like the one up above (given by logic, cited by darling), is that there could be two new HIV cases in the last year: one with someone over 25, one with someone under 25, and it would still be true.

I'm not suggesting that we get complacent about AIDS - certainly not - I'm just saying that in this part of the world, AIDS isn't killing a whole lot of people at the moment, and that maybe there are other equally or perhaps more deserving lessons to be taught on the show.

I feel as though Sesame Street in North America teaching kids about AIDS would be like Sesame Street in Brazil teaching kids about frostbite. Both things happen - AIDS in North America, frostbite in Brazil (probably, sometime, somewhere) - but they're really not all that common.

You're right, logic, AIDS isn't irrelevant to North American kids, and if that's what it seemed like I was saying, I'm sorry. There are plenty of issues, however, that I just imagine (and I say that only because it's been a good ten years or so since I watched much children's programming) are more relevant to today's kids that aren't getting much, if any, airtime.

It seems like AIDS awareness is already so high compared to other illnesses. Mental disorders seem to get a pretty small piece of the pie, and, for the life of me, I can't remember any education that I received as a child on mental disorders. That's just one example - I could probably give ten more.

Like I've said a number of times, AIDS is political, and it just shouldn't be. Bringing AIDS onto N.A. Sesame Street would only make it more so.

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"I'd like to be an astronaut, but if I can't be an astronaut, I'd like to be a coach driver."
-Neil, 7 Up


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logic_grrl
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quote:
Both things happen - AIDS in North America, frostbite in Brazil (probably, sometime, somewhere) - but they're really not all that common.

Um. Fifth leading cause of death for people between the ages of 25 and 44? Leading cause of death for African-American guys in this age range? Third leading cause of death for African-American women in this age range?

I totally agree that other conditions, like mental illness, badly need increased public awareness as well. But saying that HIV/AIDS is "really not all that common" in North America is misleading, I think.


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DarlingBri
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People with frostbite in Brazil probably don't live under a pervasive social stigma. And they probably don't got to kindergarten with other kids who are taught to fear them by uneducated parents. And they certainly don't need to be taught that they can hug their friends with frostbite, but that if the frostbitten friend bleeds, they have a risk of catching frostbite and need to be extra special careful.

C'mon.


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Hotbuttered101
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You also have to remember that many American tv shows are sold to places overseas. It may seem irrelevent but I know that I watch many more US shows than South African ones. American tv shows often become worldwide shows.

HIV may be uncommon in the US (though, I don't believe it is), but educating young children is a way to prevent any future problems. A vaccination is better than a cure. Knowledge beforehand is better than after a mistake.

If the producers of the show do decide to put an HIV+ muppet on the show, they're going to have to execute the idea perfectly. I'm not sure about an HIV+ muppet, though I certainly don't think the issue should be ignored.


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Dzuunmod
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I'm not suggesting that the idea is a bad one - merely unfair, maybe. We gather on these boards and talk so much about sex, that maybe it's easy for us to lose sight of the fact that sex issues aren't necessarily the most important ones out there, all the time.

I'm going to bow out of this talk now, as I feel like I'm banging my head against a wall, and I suppose some of you do, too.

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"I'd like to be an astronaut, but if I can't be an astronaut, I'd like to be a coach driver."
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Aria51
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from the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch:

PBS promises no HIV Muppets on American TV
Lawmakers were concerned

The article goes on to say, in part:

"The Public Broadcasting Service assured a group of concerned lawmakers Tuesday that no public funding was going toward the introduction of an HIV-positive Muppet in the South African production of the children's show "Sesame Street." The network repeated that it would not introduce a similar character in the United States."


The rest of the article can be read here.

[This message has been edited by Aria51 (edited 07-17-2002).]


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lemming
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The same lawmakers, no doubt, that are concerned that if children learn of "the homosexual agenda" they're going to "turn gay," and that are concerned that if the children learn about condoms the kids'll start having sex in the school hallways. Errrg.

I think the HIV+ muppet is a good idea, if only to have someone with a potentially life-threatening condition on the show so that kids can see that people who may be sick are still people, and live lives outside of hospitals and sickrooms.

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Ephesians
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Here's an excellent political cartoon I found about this issue.

[edited for offensive content.]

JAD <><

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For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

[This message has been edited by emsily0 (edited 07-19-2002).]


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Dzuunmod
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*Dzuunmod takes off his opinionated-little-twerp cap, and puts on his moderator one*

Ephesians, I don't know that that's appropriate for this site. HIV/AIDS isn't just about sex. Having it isn't bad, and people with the virus need to be accepted. Cartoons like that one don't help.

Also, there's no need to ridicule people who engage in so-called 'kinky' sex. Don't you hate it when people make fun of you for reading your Bible?

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"I'd like to be an astronaut, but if I can't be an astronaut, I'd like to be a coach driver."
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CupcakePrincess
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I am So Glad someone is Finally relizing that Kids need to Be Aware About something Serious like This. I had To Face it at a young Age WIth a Much more hands on aproch(spelling?) My Mother Had HIV when I was 6. and got AIDS when I was 8. So Yes, I am Thrilled. As A child I was treated Differently. Teachers Werent Very Nice to me, Children Kinda Avoided me. During Recess I would Sit In a Corner and Read a Book. That is What i did For Years. I had To Explain To Everyone That I didnt have it And you couldnt Get it From Breathing the air With me. I had to Deal with A lonely childhood Becuase Children and Parents Were, and sadly still are Scared of it and Dont know much. So I applaud The Sesame Street People. They are Opening Childrens Eyes, and their Parents. so HORRAY and If we are lucky no one Else will HAve to Live Their Childhood Like Mine.

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mnsouthpawjr
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I personally think that Sesame Street finally caught up with the times. I question how effective this will be.

I also question what give lawmakers the rights to censor this show in the U.S. PBS decided not air the HIV + muppet because it would give the wrong idea to the young audience it has.

I think before these lawmakers got so upset, they should have allowed PBS the opportunity to have focus groups on this matter.


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Confused boy
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What kind of organisation is PBS? I am afraid I am somewhat ignorant but I am surprised that lawmakers can openly prevent it from even considering certain policies.

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'An Anarchist is a Liberal with a bomb' Trotsky


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Dzuunmod
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PBS is the public broadcaster on television in the United States. Although the portion of its budget that comes from taxpayers is marginal, it is still accountable to politicians, and, I suppose, the people down there.

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mistress_monkey
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i'm absolutely fuming about the decision about the muppet. don't they realize that by making the virus seem freakish, that they scare HIV+ people into not talking about it or getting tested, therefore SPREADING the disease?

i'm not saying this muppet would totally cure the public's ignorance, but a little more open mentality about the subject of diseases like that would be refreshing.

i think what we really need is just a mass awareness. if people were more accepting, maybe infected persons would actually have the courage to say to their partner "you know, i'm HIV+, so we have to use protection." or, at the very least, have the courage to get tested. i would think this would help at least get the raging statistics under control a little bit.

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BruinDan
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quote:
Originally posted by Dzuunmod:
Although the portion of its budget that comes from taxpayers is marginal, it is still accountable to politicians, and, I suppose, the people down there.

Somethin' like that. PBS receives about $400 million per year from the Federal Government, and another $250 million from the US Department of Education. This makes up a little less than a third of PBS' total operating funds in an average year. As such, it is the life-blood of the organization, and the reason that Congress has some sort of authority over it. Were PBS to somehow go against the wishes of the entity that created it, the entire network would be shuttered by a Congress that barely finds the majority needed to fund it every year anyway. It's that tight.

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quote:
Originally posted by mistress_monkey:
i'm absolutely fuming about the decision about the muppet. don't they realize that by making the virus seem freakish, that they scare HIV+ people into not talking about it or getting tested, therefore SPREADING the disease?

i'm not saying this muppet would totally cure the public's ignorance, but a little more open mentality about the subject of diseases like that would be refreshing.



I'm a little confused here. Are you saying you think the puppet is a good or bad idea? From your first paragraph i got the impression you didn't like the idea. And if you were implying that muppets are freakish, and therefore make HIV freakish, i would just like to say, i never thought of muppets as freakish, but rather, i always thought they were like regular people, till i got a little older.

However, from you second paragraph is seems like you DO think the muppet is a good idea.

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Posts: 1747 | From: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada | Registered: Mar 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
mistress_monkey
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no no no. i didn't mean i was mad about the idea of the muppet, i meant i was mad about the fact that it was blocked from the US by congress, or whatever screwed up politics are going on.

and no, i never thought the muppets were that freakish, either.

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Posts: 158 | From: grrrrr, nowhere, usa | Registered: Mar 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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