Former Sesame Street writer says Bert and Ernie are a gay couple
Since 1969, generations of children have grown up on Sesame Street. Through the wacky adventures of adorable muppets, kids have learned how to spell and count. They've also learned valuable life lessons - the importance of sharing, realizing it's okay to feel scared, and accepting others regardless of what they look like. Sure, Oscar The Grouch might savagely clap back at Big Bird on Twitter, but deep down, you know they're still friends.
And once you get older, you start to wonder: Wait a second. Were Bert and Ernie gay? For decades, people have speculated the mismatched, bickering roommates were actually lovers. After gay marriage became legal in 2013, The New Yorker published an iconic cover, in which Bert and Ernie celebrated the Supreme Court ruling. In response, satirical newspaper The Onion published the story, "Bert And Ernie Are Not Gay, They Are Depraved Pansexual Perverts."
But despite the hilarious satire in The Onion, and in the hit Broadway play Avenue Q, what's the truth about Bert and Ernie's relationship? LGBTQ lifestyle website Queerty recently published an interview with Mark Saltzman, who joined Sesame Street as a writer in 1984. He revealed that he always thought of Bert and Ernie as lovers, and modeled them on his relationship with his partner, film editor Arnold Glassman:
"I remember one time that a column from The San Francisco Chronicle, a preschooler in the city turned to mom and asked ‘Are Bert and Ernie lovers?’ That coming from a preschooler was fun, and that got passed around, and everyone had their chuckle and went back to it. And I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert & Ernie, they were. I didn’t have any other way to contextualize them. The other thing was, more than one person referred to Arnie & I as 'Bert & Ernie.'"
"I was Ernie. I look more Bert-ish. And Arnie as a film editor—if you thought of Bert with a job in the world, wouldn’t that be perfect? Bert with his paper clips and organization? And I was the jokester. So it was the Bert & Ernie relationship, and I was already with Arnie when I came to Sesame Street. So I don’t think I’d know how else to write them, but as a loving couple. I wrote sketches…Arnie’s OCD would create friction with how chaotic I was. And that’s the Bert & Ernie dynamic."
Mark added, "I will say that I would never have said to the head writer, 'Oh, I’m writing this, this is my partner and me.'" Previously, he tried pitching progressive gay content, but it got "stonewalled" by the powers that be. "It didn't seem like anything we could touch on the air [at the time]," Mark explained. "I would have liked to have been the first writer to do the 'two mommy' episode."
However, after his comments hit the news, the claim that Bert and Ernie were gay lovers was soon shot down. In a statement posted on Twitter, the Sesame Workshop said: "As we have always said, Bert and Ernie are best friends. They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves. Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics (as most Sesame Street Muppets do), they remain puppets and do not have a sexual orientation."
Predictably, hundreds of fans, who had become excited at the confirmation, were disappointed, with many questioning why the pair couldn't have a sexual orientation.
So, should the Sesame Workshop give it up and just make Bert and Ernie a gay couple? A lot of people out there say yes!