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When Play Gets Political: Puppets Protest At The U.S. Capitol

Puppets at the Million Muppet March protest this past weekend.

When presidential hopeful Mitt Romney threatened a childhood icon with funding cuts during a debate last month, people took to the streets and protested…with puppets. In what was deemed the Million Muppet March, people used puppets, marionettes, and other toys to show their unhappiness with the idea of funding for public broadcasting being cut:

Organizers say at least 600 people signed up to attend the march in person, with a few thousand more participating virtually on Facebook, Twitter and their own marches around the country. So far, the pictures on the group’s Facebook page show the marchers bundled in puppet-like hats with animal ears, carrying coffee, placards with statements like “Grouches of the World, Unite!” and, yes, more than a few puppets.

via They’re Furry And Furious: Puppets Protest At The U.S. Capitol : The Two-Way : NPR.

This protest is not only about supporting Public Broadcasting, but is also about play on several different levels. First, Big bird and other Sesame Street characters are a big part of many Americans’ childhoods. While imaginary, to many people these Muppets were very real and very important play characters during the formative years of their lives.

Second, the use of puppets and toys to protest politics is an age-old tradition. People in countries ranging from the England to Venezuela to Thailand have used puppets and epitaphs during protests to get a laugh out of people as well as get their attention. Even the court jester in days of old could get away with some nasty political commentary because it was said “in jest.”

Full disclosure, I am a huge Muppet fan, and am happy to see that others agree with me that Big Bird and PBS are worth funding, and I’m especially happy that people showed their support using puppets.

creativity · play

Using play to cover hard news

English: A mugshot of Puppet, S.
Puppet mugshot. Image via Wikipedia

I love this story from Cleveland, OH, about how one news team brought some fun to their news reporting, and a good way of finding a solution to a problem:

It’s courtroom drama crossed with “Sesame Street,” as a television station barred from using cameras during a high-profile corruption trial covers the highlights with a nightly puppet show. It stars a talking squirrel “reporter” who provides the play-by-play in an exaggerated, “you won’t believe this” tone.

“It’s a satirical look at the trial and, again, I think we have it appropriately placed at the end of the newscast,” WOIO news director Dan Salamone said Thursday.

He said the puppets are in addition to the station’s regular coverage of the Akron federal trial of ex-Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora, the longtime Democratic power broker in Cleveland

“It’s not intended in any way to replace any of the serious coverage of the trial,” Salamone said.

With cameras barred from court, the news media has relied on artist sketches of the proceedings inside and daily video of Dimora walking into court with his wife and his defense team.

The station uses the puppets repeating testimony and performing as witnesses, reporters and jurors to detail the case, which began last week and is expected to last three months. The trial has been a daily staple of front-page coverage in The Plain Dealer newspaper and often leads TV newscasts in town.

Read the full story at Talking squirrel puppet reports from high-profile Ohio trial

It’s always nice to see when playfulness gets some attention.