Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit behind the beloved children’s institution Sesame Street, felt compelled to release a statement insisting Bert and Ernie are just friends after one of the show’s former writers told the site Queerty that the longtime puppet roommates are a couple. At least, that’s how Mark Saltzman said he wrote the characters, drawing from his own relationship with “the love of his life” Arnold Glassman.
“I was Ernie… And Arnie as a film editor — if you thought of Bert with a job in the world, wouldn’t that be perfect?”Saltzman said. “Bert with his paper clips and organization? And I was the jokester.”
Saltzman joined the Sesame Street writing staff in 1985, long after Jim Henson and puppeteer/ director Frank Oz’s characters debuted in 1969. A longterm relationship seems like a reasonable well to draw from when writing characters who argue all the time, but still voluntarily live together after 16 years. As the old saying goes, writers tend to write what they know. Plus, it would certainly explain why Bert continues to tolerate Ernie playing his trumpet while Bert is trying to sleep in the adjacent twin bed.
“I was already with Arnie when I came to Sesame Street,” Saltzman said. “So I don’t think I’d know how else to write them, but as a loving couple.”
This isn’t the first time the public has speculated on the nature of Bert and Ernie’s relationship, but instead of just letting the audience come up with its own conclusions on the nature of Bert and Ernie’s partnership, the Sesame Workshop felt the need to stop this enduring love story dead in its tracks.
“As we have always said, Bert and Ernie are best friends,” Sesame Workshop said in a 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 … they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation.”
Oz also stepped in to set the record straight.
“I created Bert,” Oz tweeted. “I know what and who he is.”
“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,” Oz said in a longer statement. “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.”
Okay, but maybe it would be cool for kids to see a same sex couple hanging out in a domestic setting given how one of the show’s missions is to teach kids about the world. Apparently, the only puppets on the show who are allowed to have sexual orientations are a blonde pig and a frog.