My good friend Donna Cavanagh has tackled the question we have all been pondering for years now.
For years, the rumor on Sesame Street was that Bert and Ernie were gay. The two did everything together – including sharing an apartment. They understood each other; they meshed well together even though they were opposites. While Bert was tough and cynical; Ernie was sensitive and naïve. But their lives revolved around each other. So, with such obvious closeness, is it any wonder that rumors that the two were gay spread throughout the Sesame Street neighborhood.
Now, outsiders to Sesame Street want the producers of the 42-year-old children’s show to “out” the close-knit Muppets. A petition requesting that the sexuality of the duo be made clear is circulating and more than 900 signatures are already recorded.
So, a petition such as this cannot exist without some sort of controversy. Let’s take a look at some of the reactions that have ensued since the petition went public:
The first reaction comes from those who hate anything “gay”. These people are outraged that Sesame Street would even think about approaching this “evil” topic. To these people I say, “Grow up! Your hateful rhetoric disguised as God’s word, is getting old and monotonous. Do you just oppose Bert and Ernie being gay or do you oppose all Muppets being gay? How far does your bigotry go?
The second reaction is from the “Yes, they need to be gay because they are two males living in the same apartment” crowd. To this argument I have three words: Felix and Oscar. No, I am not talking about the cartoon cat or the Muppet who lives in the trashcan coincidentally on Sesame Street with Bert and Ernie. No, I am talking about the Odd Couple – the Neil Simon play and movie and the TV series from the 70s. Do you remember Felix Unger and Oscar Madison? The entire show was built around the question: “Can two divorced men share an apartment without driving each other crazy?” Yes, Felix and Oscar were men, roommates, and straight.
Like the first reaction, the second reaction can also incite discrimination. If Bert and Ernie’s sexual orientation is labeled, then it sends the message that all men who are roommates are gay. That is not good either. Assuming two men are gay is just as hateful as hoping two men are not gay. Everyone deserves to be who they are without fear of bias or judgment.
This brings me to the third reaction on the petition: Tolerance and acceptance. This is a great reaction. Imagine if Bert and Ernie’s lifestyle, if they were deemed to be gay, could educate and inform young viewers on the evil of discrimination, intimidation, bullying and judging others who are different from themselves.
Plus, if Bert and Ernie were “outed”, there could be a wedding. Where would they register? Pottery Barn or Bed, Bath & Beyond — maybe even IKEA– who knows? The build up to the ceremony would take at least eight episodes and viewers could send in their votes for a color scheme and wedding theme. Maybe Bert or Ernie could turn into a Bridezilla and that would add drama to the storyline. Or maybe they can get the Cake Boss to bake the wedding cake. Who would be in the bridal party? Elmo, Big Bird? Would they bring back Miss Piggy for the event? I’m not sure if the Muppet code demands that Muppets be married by a fellow Muppet, but if it does, I vote that the Count do the ceremony since he has a cape. He looks more official than the rest of the Sesame Street residents, plus he knows his numbers. And I think that intelligence, or at least the appearance of intelligence, is important for someone conducting a wedding ceremony.
Let’s imagine the guest list for this shindig. Every Hollywood star will be fighting to get an invitation as well as anyone who is anyone in the gay, lesbian and transgender world. Yes, Bert and Ernie’s wedding could be the social event of the year.
Of course, this all falls apart if it turns out the two are straight. What will we do then? I guess it’s just back to learning our ABCs.
Donna’s work has been published in More.com, SOP.org, Divine Caroline and First magazine and local and national newspapers as well. This year, her first two humor books were published. Life On the Off Ramp is a collection of her earlier humor columns and Reality: Fantasy’s Evil Twin is a look at the contrast between how we imagine relationships to be and how they truly are.