In the current political climate, it seems that the amount of bad news often outweighs the amount of good news, but Tuesday some friendlier names made headlines. After a former “Sesame Street” writer revealed that he considered the childhood favorites Bert and Ernie to be a gay couple, the internet went wild, as if everyone’s childhood suspicion was confirmed all at once.
Writer Mark Saltzman was interviewed by Queerty on Sunday. Saltzman worked on “Sesame Street” in the ’80s and ’90s, and when asked about Bert and Ernie, whose true relationship has been debated for years, he remarked, “I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert and Ernie, they were. So I don’t think I’d know how else to write them, but as a loving couple.”
He even went on to say, “That’s what I had in my life, a Bert and Ernie relationship. How could it not permeate?” The fact that Saltzman modeled Bert and Ernie on him and his own partner was just the cherry on top of the sundae for many “Sesame Street” fans.
Unfortunately, the organization behind “Sesame Street” was quick to step in to burst the bubble, saying that Bert and Ernie are just friends. Sesame Workshop released a statement saying, “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 … They remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation.”
Although Sesame Workshop doesn’t believe they’re gay, Saltzman did say that he never openly announced his feelings about the characters. “I would have never said to the head writer, ‘Oh I’m writing this, this is my partner and me.’”
Even with the confusion, fans still took to Twitter to make jokes about the matter, bringing Bert and Ernie to one of the top trends. Many thanked Bert and Ernie for once again coming to the rescue and giving a positive news story after Stormy Daniels made headlines describing some explicit information about President Trump’s penis.
Others, including Billy Eichner, took a more wholesome approach, tweeting things like, “I DON’T CARE IF BERT AND ERNIE ARE GAY I JUST WANT THEM TO BE HAPPY!!!!”
I DON'T CARE IF BERT AND ERNIE ARE GAY I JUST WANT THEM TO BE HAPPY!!!!
— billy eichner (@billyeichner) September 18, 2018
Although most of the commentary concerning Bert and Ernie supported their relationship, some did point out the importance of their friendship. “As a young boy I was taught by other kids that teasing and bullying my male friends was how we bonded. I’m very happy that there are male characters like Bert and Ernie that can tell each other ‘I love you’ and mean it in a non-romantic way.”
This is not the first time the Bert and Ernie controversy has caused problems. In 2015, a bakery in Northern Ireland run by conservative Christians discriminated against a customer by refusing to make him a Bert and Ernie cake reading “Support gay marriage.” The case was taken to court and ruled in favor of the customers.
To clear up some of the confusion, Frank Oz, who created Bert, also tweeted Tuesday, saying, “They’re not, of course… Does it really matter? Why the need to define people as only gay? There’s much more to a human being than just straightness or gayness.”
It seems Mr. Mark Saltzman was asked if Bert & Ernie are gay. It's fine that he feels they are. They're not, of course. But why that question? Does it really matter? Why the need to define people as only gay? There's much more to a human being than just straightness or gayness.
— Frank Oz (@TheFrankOzJam) September 18, 2018
Either way, people seem to just be grateful for a nostalgic reminder of their childhood among the flood of political headlines. Whether Bert and Ernie are gay or straight, they remain role models for whoever needs them. For people who needed to see gay role models as a child, they were able to be those models. And for people who needed to see a strong male friendship, they were that as well. Bert and Ernie are the real heroes of the situation, no matter their true sexuality.