Published Sep 19, 2018Long-running children's series Sesame Street has just about everything — a furry elephant dude, a gigantic bipolar bird, a blue dude with an eating disorder and a cranky old grump who lives in the trash. One thing it may not have, however, is a straightforward gay couple. After all, rumours about Bert and Ernie's relationship status are tearing the muppet community apart.
It all started when Sesame Street writer Mark Saltzman told Queerty that he initially conceived the duo as a couple based on his own relationship with film editor Arnold Glassman.
"I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert and Ernie, they were," Saltzman said. "I didn't have any other way to contextualize them. The other thing was, more than one person referred to Arnie and I as 'Bert and Ernie.'"
Frank Oz, however, begs to differ. On his Twitter, he disagreed with Saltzman's statement. "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," Oz wrote. "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."
Met with a great deal of push back for his statement, Oz doubled down on his belief. "When a character is created to be queer it is indeed important that the character be known as such. It is also important when a character who was not created queer, be accepted as such," he added.
When confronted about his insistence that the characters were not gay, Oz said it was simply the truth from his perspective. He added that his insistence on the point was "the same need I would feel if Bert were identified as a linebacker for the Colts. It's not honest."
Sesame Workshop sidestepped the entire conversation. In an email to NBC News, they shared the following statement:
Sesame Street has always stood for inclusion and acceptance. It's a place where people of all cultures and backgrounds are welcome. Bert and Ernie were created to be best friends, and to teach young children that people can get along with those who are very different from themselves.
So there you have it — the jury is still out on whether or not Bert and Ernie are gay. Now if we could just figure out what's going on with Statler and Waldorf.