After sifting through the news over this past week—The stock market goes schizoid; Republicans draw cutesy, seemingly-meaningless straws in Iowa—I think the most important story I came across is the following: Last week, in response to an online petition requesting that longtime Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie come out as gay and subsequently be allowed to be married, the show’s creators, The Sesame Workshop, released the following statement:
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.
So there you have it. I can’t say I really understand nor support the Let-them-marry petition, and I say this as both a lover of Bert and Ernie as well as someone who’s highly supportive of gay marriage. The framers cast their petition in the language of stopping bullying and hate crimes against LGBT kids, and while I certainly think that’s a pressing issue that requires attention (and thankfully is receiving it through projects like It Gets Better), to my mind this request for Bert and Ernie’s gayness simply doesn’t follow. They’re puppets, and while it’d be naive to think that the show is political neutered, I think we can let Bert and Ernie be just that.
The upside of this is that it’s now been officially delineated—puppets don’t have a sexual orientation. I truly feel confident that some people will now sleep better at night. So now we all know, and that, according to GI Joe, is half the battle (though now that I think on it, Joe’s hyper-masculine physique, tough-guy exterior and perpetual warmongering certainly feel compensatory, and I can’t help but wonder if he might not be the one in need of coming out.)