Don’t ask, don’t tell?
Nah. The folks who bring us “Sesame Street” say ask away. Ask as many people you want to ask if longtime roommates Bert and Ernie are gay. The answer could be yes, or it could be no — depending on who’s doing the telling, or answering in this case.
“People can think whatever they want (about Bert and Ernie),” said Brown Johnson, the executive vice president of the Sesame Workshop, which produces the show. “You want to think they’re gay? OK. You want to think they’re not gay? They’re not gay.”
Now that’s a non-answer.
A former writer on the show had previously said that in his scripts he treated Bert and Ernie as gay. Sesame Workshop released a statement to say no, that wasn’t the case.
“As we have always said, Bert and Ernie are best friends,” read the statement. “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.”
Brown provided his quote to the Hollywood Reporter for an article on the educational show’s golden anniversary. The publication pointed out that “Sesame Street” has provided groundbreaking television fare over its 50 years. In 1971, for example, it cast Sonia Manzano to play Maria, the first lead role for a Latina in TV history. The show was also at the forefront in dealing with such issues as AIDS, Down Syndrome and autism.
In its spirit of inclusivity, could it have also been one of the first shows to have featured a gay couple, although it was never discussed openly on the Street itself?
But fans of the show have been wondering for decades. Bert and Ernie, after all, have been bacheloring it together for 50 years at least, and they haven’t handed out any roses to any bachelorettes that whole time.
Johnson’s answer(s) to the question will not end the debate. But if Bert and Ernie’s relationship is open to interpretation, shouldn’t that also be the case about everything on Sesame Street?
Like, is Big Bird really that big a bird?
Is Elmo genuinely ticklish, or is he faking it for the attention?
Really, how grouchy is Oscar?
Mr. Snuffleupagus? Let’s not even go there.
Johnson might have just opened up an existential Pandora’s box that might we might not be able to shut again.