Bert and Ernie – More Than “Just Friends?”

Sesame Street Writer Considered the Characters a Couple

Roommates and pals since 1969, Sesame Street's Bert and Ernie may have been a couple too.

That's what former show writer Mark Saltzman told Queerty in an interview posted on September 16. When asked, "Ok, so we have to address—that's the big question, right? In the writer's room, you're all adults. Were you thinking of Bert & Ernie as a gay couple? Did that question ever come up?" Saltzman replied, "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."

OK, so maybe they're gay. If that's how the writer conceived them, so be it. But like any form of art, those who tuned in may have interpreted the puppets' status as nothing more than pals. Does it matter? Should it matter?

There are people who think it is great to have gay characters on a show like Sesame Street. Celebrating diversity and teaching its merits to children from the start is on the mind of plenty of parents who plop their little ones in front of the set day in and day out. Then there are those who find it preposterous to consider the duo to be partners. Be it something as biased as bigotry or as simple as they can't see the pair as anything more than platonic. Thirdly, they are puppets, not people. That's what the folks at Sesame Workshop are explaining. The company tweeted, "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 and characteristics (as most Sesame Street Muppets™ do), they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation." Alrighty then.

That said, there are writers who put words to paper and voices behind the fuzzy friends conveying the messages. If a writer scripts scenes with their own point of view in mind, it only makes sense that it trickles into how the characters' personas develop. As NPR notes, "Saltzman was in a long term relationship with another man when he joined the show. 'That's what I had in my life, a Bert & Ernie relationship. How could it not permeate?'"

We can speculate on the matter endlessly. But only until Bert and Ernie define their sexual orientations and relationship, we may as well simply enjoy the happiness they bring and the lessons we've learned and continue to cherish.

Just friends? Fantastic. If they're a couple, congrats! And all this time, we thought rubber ducky was, "the one."

Melissa A. Kay is a New York-based writer, editor, and content strategist. Follow her work on Popdust as well as sites including TopDust, Chase Bank, P&G,, The Richest, GearBrain, The Journiest, Bella, TrueSelf, Better Homes & Gardens, AMC Daycare, and more.

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