Sesame Street criticised after denying writer’s claim Bert and Ernie are gay
Fans have been left outraged after the producers of long-running US children TV series Sesame Street said that Bert and Ernie are not a gay couple.
The official Twitter account for the Sesame Workshop, which is behind the show, released a statement after one of Sesame Street’s writers Mark Saltzman told Queerty that he thought of Bert and Ernie as a gay couple.
“As we have always said, Bert and Ernie are best friends,” Sesame Workshop said in a statement.
“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.”
Some social media users have reacted with anger at the statement.
“This is super homophobic and unnecessarily cruel, rethink it,” one Twitter user said.
Another wrote: “I’m actually really sad and shocked at this homophobic response from Sesame Street denying the writer’s claim that Bert and Ernie are gay. Sesame Street has featured multiple romances between muppets. I guess the gays aren’t welcome on Sesame Street .”
And one person said: “Why did they feel compelled to make an official statement on this? And why now? Why not just say nothing, and let us believe what we want? Honestly, this feels like salt on an already gaping wound. Shame on you, @SesameWorkshop.”
Frank Oz, who performs as Bert on the show, has also taken to Twitter to deny that his character and Ernie are gay.
“It seems Mr. Mark Saltzman was asked if Bert & Ernie are gay. It’s fine that he feels they are,” Oz wrote. “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.”
Speaking to Queerty in an interview on September 16, writer Saltzman was asked whether he thought Bert and Ernie were a gay couple.
“I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert and Ernie, they were,” he responded.
The writer also revealed that some people in his social circle referred to himself and his partner, film editor Arnold Glassman, as Bert and Ernie.
He said that he wrote them as a loving couple, and felt that he didn’t have any other way to write them, as he was already in a relationship with Glassman by the time he came to Sesame Street.
“The things that would tick off Arnie (his partner) would be the things that would tick off Bert,” he added.
Still, he also noted that he never would have told the head writer that he was basing Bert and Ernie on himself and Glassman.
Bert and Ernie are considered by many in the LGBT+ community to be gay icons, with many adopting them as a symbolic gay couple.
After same-sex marriage was legalised in New York, fans set up a petition on Change.org asking for the show’s creators to have Bert and Ernie get married on screen.
It’s not the first time producers of the show have denied Bert and Ernie are a gay couple.
In 1994, Sesame Street workshop boss Gary Knell said that Bert and Ernie “are not gay, they are not straight, they are puppets.”
Despite this, speculation about the nature of Bert and Ernie’s relationship has not died down.
In 2015, the pair were at the centre of another controversy, after a cake was ordered in Northern Ireland sporting an image of Bert and Ernie along with the words “Support Gay Marriage.”
The bakers refused to bake the cake, and said that they run their business “according to Christian values and beliefs.”