Sesame Street‘s Bert and Ernie have been living together for 40 years. And now, an online petition demanding that Sesame Street allow Bert and Ernie to wed is circulating. As of this posting it has almost 4,500 signatures. “Let us teach tolerance of those that are different,” the petition’s description reads. “Let Sesame Street and PBS Kids be a big part in saving many worthy lives.” Admirable intentions, but are Bert and Ernie even gay? And even if they are, why should two puppets on a kids’ show get married?
We called up the creator of the campaign, Lair Scott, for his perspective on the push to make honest puppets out of Bert and Ernie. Scott, 53, is the executive director of the Toledo LGBTQ Center, though he now lives in Chicago. He’s been an activist for various causes since the age of 14, he said.
Scott was inspired to launch the campaign after noticing a friend’s Facebook post about how long Bert and Ernie had been living together in sin. He decided to do something about it. When I asked him whether he was sure Bert and Ernie were in a relationship, he said, “Are you sure?”
“It’s been implied for too long,” Scott said. “And especially for the gay community. Even when I was nine years old, I knew that Bert and Ernie weren’t just roommates.”
PBS doesn’t share Scott’s stance on the issue. They would only issue a statement via the Sesame Workshop, which 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.
Scott said “they might be best friends, but best friends get married. You live with a guy for 40 years — come on, Sesame Street.” According to Scott, “we’re talking about educating children and parents on a new kind of marriage. That’s all I can tell them. It’s that simple.”
Scott also has some campaigns in mind for the Disney Channel. “We’re not just targeting one situation,” he said. “If the gay community is going through all this change, let’s bring it to the forefront of equality.” He is running the campaign himself, with some help from a few others, and thinks they have a good shot at getting a wedding for Bert and Ernie.
Elsewhere, the campaign has been met with a mix of bemusement and suspicion. At Videogum, the petition is called “misguided” — same at Jezebel. And there are a number of counter-petitions springing up at change.org, like “Preserve the Innocence of Sesame Street- Keep Bert and Ernie As Friends!”. It’s true that Bert and Ernie are merely felt puppets, and probably don’t even have sexual organs. Videogum’s Gabe argues that “There is…absolutely no reason to brush a patina of ACTUAL SEX onto this relationship.” Well, duh.
But Bert and Ernie wouldn’t be having sex on camera, we assume? And besides, why is everyone acting like they’re still avid aficionados of Sesame Street? If Bert and Ernie want to get married, hell, let them. It’s legal now!
Check out the rest of Runnin’ Scared, the Village Voice‘s New York news blog.