A few years back I visited my cousins in India, and one day we turned on the television in the living room looking for something to watch. After scrolling through news channels and Indian soap operas, we landed on the local cartoon station, greeted by a band of furry creatures immediately recognizable as Jim Henson’s muppets. I would later find out that the show we happened upon was Galli Galli Sim Sim, the Indian version of Sesame Street. The characters on the show speak a mix of English and Hindi, and most of them have counterparts in the original, American version of Sesame Street. For example, Boombah the lion bears several similarities to Big Bird, Googly the blue muppet is a pretty clear match with Grover, and Kewal Khadoosa is actually related to Oscar the Grouch himself (according to Muppet Wiki). Anyway, the point to all of this is that these Sesame Street characters are manifestations of transnational figures. Having grown up in America watching shows like Sesame Street, I was shocked that Indians would be able to watch Sesame Street in their own homes, let alone have their own modified version of the show.
In fact, Sesame Street has over 25 spinoffs in various countries around the world, ranging from Takalani Sesame in South Africa to Sesamstraße in Germany, and each show has a modified version of the original cast. Usually the cast is modified in a way reflective of the adopted culture, such as Boombah’s love for the Indian dance form of bhangra or the name Googly’s double meaning as a cricket term for a type of delivery bowled by a right-arm leg spin bowler. In this way, the various iterations of Sesame Street characters are actually an interesting lens through which to look at transnationalism, as they highlight the universal love for children across the world for these multicolored creatures, while also playing off of the cultural differences that make each show’s characters unique.
– Joe Joseph