ASHEVILLE, N.C. (BP) — Sesame Street producers tried to set the record straight last week, asserting that puppet characters Bert and Ernie are not a gay couple.
For generations, smirking teens have suggested that the roommates were more than friends, and former Sesame Street writer Mark Saltzman seemed to confirm it in an interview posted Sept. 16 on the website Queerty. He said he always imagined Bert and Ernie as a romantically involved couple when he was writing scenes for them.
In response to the Saltzman interview, the show’s producers tweeted: “As we have always said, 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 … they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation.”
That statement reportedly upset people who want to see more gay TV characters, and the show’s producers re-responded Sept. 18 with something more general about diversity and acceptance, saying Bert and Ernie “were created to be best friends.” As Sesame Street worked to find a middle ground with its pro-LGBT critics, Saltzman did the same for parents who want to protect their children from sexualization.
Saltzman told The New York Times he didn’t mean that Bert and Ernie were gay, just that he had written from his own experiences as a gay man. Frank Oz, who helped create Bert and Ernie, also clarified on Twitter that the duo wasn’t gay, and raised the question: “Does it really matter? Why the need to define people as only gay? There’s so much more to a human being than straightness or gayness.”