The eternal question remains: are Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street a gay couple? Many members of the LGBTQ community hold up the pair as icons of homosexual love who snuck past bigoted censors to show children a healthy gay relationship on television. Others, however, have long purported that Bert and Ernie are simply friends who live together as roommates. Still others insist the pair are puppets, and as such, have no sexuality or backstory involving their romantic feelings.
The debate got a new twist on September 16, 2018, when Mark Saltzman, a writer for Sesame Street who joined the team in 1984, revealed that, though he never made it explicit, he always wrote the characters as a gay couple.
In an interview with Queerty, Saltzman, himself a gay man, revealed that Bert and Ernie were in a relationship...at least in his mind:
I remember one time that a column from The San Francisco Chronicle, a preschooler in the city turned to mom and asked "are Bert & Ernie lovers?" And that, coming from a preschooler was fun. And that got passed around, and everyone had their chuckle and went back to it. And I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert & Ernie, they were. I didn't have any other way to contextualize them.
Though Saltzman's statement was greeted with joy by many around the world, Sesame Street quickly wrote their own statement asserting that, no matter what a writer for the show felt, Bert and Ernie are just felt; they have no sexual impulses, gay, straight, or otherwise.
Part of their statement reads:
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 (as most Sesame Street Muppets do), they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation.
Saltzman's statement and Sesame Street's subsequent disagreement has sparked a fierce online debate.
*Warning: Many of these opinions feature explicit language.*
Many thought Sesame Street's excuse lacked credibility due to the relationship between Kermit and Ms. Piggy.
Meanwhile, the case for Bert and Ernie being a couple was being made in many ways, some more snarky than others.
The renewed interest in Bert and Ernie's relationship also shed some light on the other Muppets and their unexplained behaviors.
What has become of us, America?
Perhaps sensing they were coming out on the wrong side of history, Sesame Street issued a follow-up statement, clarifying the purpose of Bert and Ernie:
And, to be fair, many people on both sides of the "are they gay?" argument felt that their sexual orientation didn't need to be explicit.
At the end of the day, the nature of Bert and Ernie's relationship will likely remain a personal opinion. And that's okay, because people who disagree can still get along, live in an apartment together, spend all their time together, grow old, and never look for any other romantic partners.