August 4, 2014

Elmo, the Illegal

It’s one thing when the Times Square Elmos story is characterized in terms of labor, specifically the potential licensing and regulating of a novel class of workers. Or, when the focus is on integrity and performance standards, the concern the bad apple (or, bad Elmo) raises with the others, and how little actual leverage large entertainment companies have over their these working characters.

But, when the coverage starts to pivot on undocumented immigrants and their identification as glorified panhandlers, the story and the photo assume a different inflection. In that light, we can see Elmo/Jorge as looking a little concerned, perhaps. We also see him splitting the frame between some white tourists and brown tourists gawking at him. And we see an electronic Old Glory above the heads of the White tourists just to lend that accent of nationalism. If we’ve looked at a lot of examples over the years, this is one of the more unique examples of  “the other.”

(photo: Eduardo Munoz/Reuters. caption: Jorge, an immigrant from Mexico, dressed as the Sesame Street character Elmo rests in Times Square, New York July 29, 2014.)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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