The Muppets Bert and Ernie have been roommates on Sesame Street for 49 years now, and some have speculated that they are a gay couple. Mark Saltzman has written for stage, screen, and TV, including a 15-year stint at Sesame Street. Bert and Ernie were already an integral part of the Sesame Street cast when Saltzman, who is openly gay, began to write their skits in 1984. He talks about the characters in an interview, in which he admits that his writing for the two was inspired by his relationship with his late partner Arnold Glassman.
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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. The other thing was, more than one person referred to Arnie & I as “Bert & Ernie.”
That interview went viral, and Sesame Workshop responded with a now-deleted Tweet, repeating their official stance on the matter.
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 (as most Sesame Street Muppets™ do), they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation.
A few hours later, they updated and softened their statement.
Please see our most recent statement regarding Bert and Ernie below. pic.twitter.com/gWTF2k1y83
— Sesame Workshop (@SesameWorkshop) September 18, 2018
So, Bert and Ernie are not sexual because they are puppets on a show meant for preschoolers, but they love each other, because otherwise how could they live together despite driving each other crazy? If they were real people, it would be none of our business. As they are fictional characters, it appears that the exact nature of their relationship lies in the viewers’ imagination.
(Image credit: Flickr user See-ming Lee)