Bert and Ernie - Officially not Gay...

...or anything for that matter. Sesame Street Workshop recently made a statement saying that Bert and Ernie were just  'Best Friends' and outing them as not having a sexual orientation as they are 'puppets'. The full statement, which can be found on their Facebook page reads as follows:
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.
The statement is a response to a recent online petition and Facebook page requesting that Bert and Ernie be allowed to get married on Sesame Street as a way of supporting LBGT teens. The petition’s creator, Lair Scott, was inspired by the “It Gets Better” series of videos launched by columnist Dan Savage.

That's the history of this latest Bert and Ernie saga if you wish to do your own research.


And now for my commentary...

If you're looking for a thoughtful piece about why Bert and Ernie shouldn't be officially identified as gay I thought Graeme McMillan's blog, Official: Bert and Ernie Aren’t Gay (And Why They Shouldn’t Be), gives a compelling and well thought out argument.

From my point of view I'm just happy that Sesame Street Workshop isn't bowing to the pressure. Bert and Ernie just aren't gay, even if there are many hints that possibly suggest otherwise. Such as Bert and Ernie taking a bath together.

If the characters don't have any sexual orientation then taking a bath together has no real underlying meaning. They could be just saving water... they're obviously not that rich since they live in a one bedroom house. (take this paragraph as tongue in cheek. I'm not, for a second, trying to make serious argument).

However looking at it from the other point of view, if they're not gay, then does that mean they're straight? In 40 plus years I've never seen either of them have so much as a crush on any female character. I've never seen Ernie ask Bert to spend an evening out because Ernie's bringing home a hot date.

Perhaps there's something to this idea that they have no sexual orientation?

Then again perhaps there's another scenario. Some observers believe Bert and Ernie behave like an old married couple. Maybe they secretly got married years ago?

But if that were true why do they sleep in separate beds? (I hear you ask).

Well that's not unprecedented for married couples. Watchers of the seventies hit TV show Faulty Towers will know (if my memory serves me correctly) that the uptight Basil Faulty slept in the same room but in a separate bed from his wife Sybil.

It's something else to think about.

At this point I have to admit this isn't quite the direction I thought this article would go. I really just wanted to make a point about people projecting gay relationships onto male character friendships that haven't really been portrayed as gay. The classic examples, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Batman and Robin.

It's like the Seinfeld episode where Jerry protests that he's not gay (not that there's anything wrong with that) just because he's clean, neat and organised.

Please stop doing that. Stop trying to superimpose 'gayness' onto characters and people that just aren't simply because they display a few 'gay' characteristics from time to time and could be seen as gay.

I'd much rather see true gay characters developed for TV, movies, fiction etc. than have this 'retro-fitting' of established characters into a gay orientation. Retro-fitting 'gay' does nothing to help the acceptance of people who identify as such. If anything it inflames the people who struggle to accept gay relationships.

The TV series Modern Family, whilst I wouldn't say the gay characters are necessarily typical of gay men, at least makes an attempt to describe a real gay relationship in an 'average' family, living in the suburbs context. In terms of advancing the LBGT agenda for acceptance I feel that's a much better way to go.

I'd rather Bert and Ernie remain as best friends and, if Sesame Street ever did want to introduce a gay relationship... perhaps it would be better to do it with their human cast rather than the puppets - since people do have sexual orientation.

4 comments:

  1. I don't know why they have to do this either to characters that were developed with children in mind. I know gay relationships weren't talked about when Sesame St came out, so maybe they are trying to bring it up-to-date.

    Children didn't used to think about that sort of thing then, but maybe they do now with all the stuff they see on TV etc, as it's 'in their face' so to speak. I thought Bert and Ernie were seen as more school age characters, not adults. They are two of my favourites from Sesame St, which I remember starting.

    It's the same with Enid Blyton books, 'Noddy and Big Ears' who are shown sitting up in bed in the colour pictures. I loved those books as a child, and later, the adventure books, but I never thought it was strange to see this, just thought it natural, as they were friends, but then such things either weren't heard of or not talked about then! I think they tried to have these books altered - don't know what happened about it.

    It's stange though, because with the Bert and Erinie thing, they seem to have come complete circle, and are now encouraging it - when there is actually nothing there!

    The girl character Georgina, George for short in 'The Famous Five' who was a tomboy who liked to wear shorts and generally look like a boy,as she had short, curly hair, and didn't like anything feminine, was read into as being a 'butch'type of character in our time now.

    Even the children's fairy stories, and such as Peter Pan don't escape scrutinisation, though, not in a 'gay' way. The 'sick' minds of some people were trying to make something of Tinkerbell's jealousy of Wendy with Peter Pan, or something going off with Peter and Wendy. It's just a children's story - why do they have to taint things putting an adult's slant on things, which children would never have thought about?

    Leave the children's stories and characters alone, just let children enjoy them for what they are, simply stories for children - not for adults to analyse and corrupt!

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  2. I agree that these activist groups should leave long established characters alone. Maybe gay relationships are more accepted but for those still struggling to deal with it, retro fitting gayness onto characters that are not seen as gay by mainstream audiences, is not helping at all.

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  3. I always assumed Bert and Ernie were young kids when I was young. Now that I'm older... wait who cares now that I'm older. They affected me when I was young, and I always thought they were roommates. I didn't even consider them good friends because they were fighting all the time.

    I find it weird that people would want them to get married. The whole thing with a comedy duo is that nothing ever changes. Even if they were gay, comedy shows always decline after marriage (providing the characters were single in the first place), it would be disastrous. It's the sexual tension that makes things interesting. :P
    So even if they were gay, being in the closet is part of their charm.

    I have friends who are straight and been roommates for a long time. They've slept (actually slept- not the sexual sense) together many times in the same bed! But being gay takes more than superficial actions (it would be easier to decide if Bert and Ernie had penises :P ). I think homophobia mindsets takes over in even homosexuals minds and they feel the need to associate even little acts of affection as the whole of sexuality.

    I think one of the most destructive things that happened in our society was the major homophobia where men stopped showing platonic affectionate towards each other for fear of being labelled as a homosexual. Yay for 50-60s propaganda videos and bogotry...

    Now women can hold hands, hugs, cuddle, etc, without it being considered gay, but guys are made to feel like their sexuality (and manhood) is in question. It's a shame. I think this is a bad obsession of ours trying to decide people's sexuality and acting like it actually matters.

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  4. When I was a kid I assumed pretty much the same as you Coady. As an adult I never really changed my point of view. I just assumed they were like the two guys on the 'Odd Couple' (if you know that TV show) and possibly even based upon them.

    I always thought they were friends despite their arguments. However I have a sneaking suspicion that if Ernie was gay you'd know about it. He's just a 'touchy-feely', outgoing kind of guy ;-)

    I like to think all that homophobia is at least starting to crumble. We're not there yet but there's definitely momentum building.

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