Are Bert and Ernie gay? For years, people have wondered if Sesame Street’s best buds, created in 1969, are more than friends.
As The New York Times points out, they “live together, share a bedroom and don’t seem shy about taking a bath in front of each other.”
Some fans even created a change.org petition in 2011, demanding for Sesame Street writers to let the two Muppets get married on the show. Then, when the Supreme Court ruled to allow same-sex married couples federal benefits in 2013, Bert and Ernie were featured on the cover of the New Yorker.
So, are Bert and Ernie gay? Mark Saltzman implies yes
Last weekend, former Sesame Street writer Mark Saltzman weighed in on this debate. Queerty.com asked the quintessential question: “Are Bert and Ernie gay?” Saltzman, then, replied that he does in fact view them as gay.
“I remember one time that a column from The San Francisco Chronicle, a preschooler in the city turned to mom and asked ‘Are Bert and Ernie lovers?’ That coming from a preschooler was fun, and that got passed around, and everyone had their chuckle and went back to it,” Saltzman, who wrote for Sesame Street for nine years, told Queerty. “And I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert & Ernie, they were [gay].”
Saltzman continued, “I didn’t have any other way to contextualize them.”
He went on to say that people referred to him and his partner, Arnold “Arnie” Glassman, who died in 2003, as “Bert and Ernie.”
“So it was the Bert & Ernie relationship,” Saltzman said, “and I was already with Arnie when I came to Sesame Street. So I don’t think I’d know how else to write them, but as a loving couple.”
Are Bert and Ernie gay? Sesame Street says no
“Sesame Street has always stood for inclusion and acceptance. It’s a place where people of all cultures and backgrounds are welcome,” Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit behind Sesame Street, said in a statement sent to NBC News. “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.”
They also wrote a similar two-part message on Twitter.
One part of the statement, which has since been deleted, said that Bert and Ernie have no sexual orientation because they are puppets. It’s important to note that Kermit the Frog, if you recall, had many love interests over the years (looking at you Miss Piggy). Sesame Street was not available for immediate comment regarding this fact.
An updated statement from Sesame Workshop reads as follows:
Please see our most recent statement regarding Bert and Ernie below. pic.twitter.com/gWTF2k1y83
— Sesame Workshop (@SesameWorkshop) September 18, 2018
The official Sesame Street Twitter account also retweeted the remarks.
Sesame Street puppeteer Frank Oz tweeted: “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. 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.”
When asked by a Twitter user why he needed to identify Bert and Ernie as “not gay” or as “only straight,” Oz replied: “for honesty.” He later said that it’s “nice” some people think Bert and Ernie are gay, but it’s not the case.
One user wrote, “it’s important for characters to be explicitly declared queer, because the mainstream will code them straight by default,” to which Oz replied: “Agreed. 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 further elaborated that what truly matters is people seeing “positive views of themselves and others in B & E.”
Saltzman told The Times on Tuesday night that his comments about the Bert and Ernie gay controversy were misinterpreted.
“As a writer, you just bring what you know into your work,” he said. And that, for him, meant his relationship with Glassman, his late partner. “Somehow, in the uproar, that turned into Bert and Ernie being gay. There is a difference.”
At the end of the day, Bert and Ernie’s relationship is full of love, Saltzman says, concluding, “It’s like poetry. It’s what you need it to be.”