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Critic's Corner: Bert & Ernie are gay!?!
Critic's corner is a monthly hub series that covers a wide range of topics ranging from TV to movies. I'll even review a few film critics, and critique their styles from time to time.
Each topic on a monthly basis will be completely random, so don't expect each "Critic's Corner" to be exactly the same. One month, I could talk about why reboots and remakes aren't as bad as people think, or I could delve into a topic like whether or not a "Captain Planet" movie would be a good idea. The possibilities are just endless. Without further delay, let's delve into this month's topic...."Bert and Ernie possibly being gay...."
Why am I writing about this?
As many of my readers know, I usually try to avoid controversial subject matter like this mainly because I'm always afraid that I might offend someone. Unlike most writers on this site, I have followers that consist of a good mix of liberals and conservatives that I usually find it best to be neutral, when it comes to most taboo topics on my hubs However, i decided to make a special exception in this case. Although I'm a bit late for the party, as this hardly a new topic to most people. But, I decided to throw in my own two cents about this topic anyway.
For those of you who don't know about this issue, then I'll give you the skinny. A few years ago, a guy that grew up watching Sesame Street started an online petition to have Bert and Ernie come out of the closet to become Sesame Street's first openly gay couple on the show. Needless to say, it's gained quite a cult following to where even TV shows are poking fun at the idea.
"The New Yorker" printed a suggestive cover of Bert and Ernie snuggling together on a couch last year, when DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) wasn't passed; which would've allowed various states the right not to recognize same sex marriages. Since this happened, many people within the LBGT community have demanded that Sesame Street have Bert and Ernie get married on the show.
However, the producers of Sesame Street have been reluctant to grant such a request. In fact, their official response to the matter is that Bert and Ernie are just best friends, and they're puppets. They do not exist from the waist down; hence they do not have a sexual orientation. The characters were designed to teach kids that two people of contrasting personalities and interests can be best friends.
However, that hasn't stopped people from speculating about this further. When Bradley Cooper made the "A-Team" adaptation a few years ago, Bert tweeted the following statement in reference to the original TV show the film was based on with this statement:
"Ever notice how similar my hair is to Mr. T’s? The only difference is mine is a little more ‘mo,’ a little less ‘hawk.’"
Some might call it a harmless reference, but some interpreted that statement to mean something more. Some people thought the word "mo" was slang for "homo", as in homosexual. Although to some people that might seem a bit silly to think that deeply into things, but the speculations continue to grow.
Some point out how they've been living together for years, and how they sleep in the same room, as definitive proof that they happen to be gay characters. While others have argued that they're merely best friends, and nothing more. Hell, some people even argue that they're really brothers, but that's never been confirmed on the show as far as I know.
After hearing all these things, I found myself compelled by this story, as I never thought Bert and Ernie were gay when I was a kid. Even as an adult, I never viewed them as gay people. But since it's become such a controversial issue these days, I've decided to throw my own two cents into this.
Growing up watching Bert and Ernie, and my earlier thoughts on the characters
As a child, I barely knew what the hell homosexuality was; hence the idea of them being a gay couple never occurred to me. Back then, I always just saw them as two best friends living together. Nothing more or less.
I suppose when you're a child, you never think too deeply about things like this, as I know I certainly didn't. I can't speak for most people growing up, but I can speak for myself. And for myself, I never thought about the characters having any kind of sexual interest, when I was a child. Back when I used to watch Sesame Street, I barely even knew what sex was. Heck, I barely even cared about Miss Piggy's relationship with Kermit half the time in the "Muppet" films, so if someone had even tried to put the idea of Bert and Ernie being lovers into my head, then I can imagine the five or six year old me would probably say something like, "Silly, boys can't date each other."
Granted, I'm old enough now to know that boys can date each other, but I was a bit naïve about things back then, so I doubt it would've even registered with me.
Ernest and Bertram- A parody of Bert and Ernie (Warning: Contains Adult Language, and Adult Situations. Parental Discretion is advised)
Bert and Ernie Poll #1
Do you think Bert and Ernie are gay?
My thoughts on Bert and Ernie as an adult, and my thoughts about them possibly being gay
Although I haven't seen an entire episode of Sesame Street in years, I have to say that the notion of Bert and Ernie being gay never crossed my mind. Not even once. Heck, as an adult, I just see them as sort of a kid friendly version of "The Odd Couple", a film that featured two straight men living together that had completely opposite personalities.
As for them being allegedly gay, I can't really say because I just think of them as puppets. I don't see Bert and Ernie as actual people to be honest because they don't even exist. Sure, they're famous. Granted, Bert and Ernie were a huge part of almost everyone's childhood growing up.
But at the end of the day, Bert and Ernie aren't real people. They're just puppets. I know for a fact that Bert and Ernie are being controlled by some random puppeteer(s) doing their voices, while the kiddies get lost in the pure imagination of it. I know if I were to visit the set of Sesame Street, in real life, that Bert and Ernie wouldn't be able to tell me anything about their dubious sexuality. If you want my honest opinion, Bert and Ernie can only be gay if the puppeteer(s) controlling them want them to be gay.
And if the producers and puppeteers don't want them to have a sexual orientation, then I'm inclined to believe that they don't have a sexual orientation; in spite what other people want to believe. However, that's not to say that I don't have other thoughts on the possibilities of them coming out someday.
Bert and Ernie on Family Guy (Warning: Contains Adult Language, Alcohol usage, Adult situations and brief nudity. Parental discretion is advised)
What if Sesame Street caves into public demands, and makes them get married?
Although I doubt this will happen in my lifetime, but I'll speculate exactly what my thoughts are if it was announced tomorrow that Bert and Ernie were going to get married on "Sesame Street." If they were to get married on "Sesame Street", then I'd be perfectly okay with it.
As a film critic, I've grown to appreciate it whenever people take creative risks like this, and if Jim Henson productions and PBS wanted to go this route, then I would certainly commend them for it. Hell, i would probably even write a hub about it, by calling the move a ballsy one that's not only groundbreaking in children's programming, but a great way to teach kids about tolerance when it comes to the gay community.
In public schools, bullying has become a major issue in the United States to where if kids even suspect that their classmate might be gay, then they pummel them into the ground. Hell, there's even been a few reports that kids get beat up if they wear anything less than manly like a "My Little Pony" jacket or something. If Bert and Ernie were to get married on "Sesame Street", then think of all the kids that could learn that being gay doesn't make you a weirdo. It can be shown that being gay is actually a natural thing, and it doesn't define who you are as a person.
It could help young boys and girls that are confused about their own sexuality to realize that there's nothing wrong with them if they happen to be gay. Hell, Bert and Ernie might even turn out to be role models for all the gay boys and girls in America. Possibly even the world.
However, we can't forget about the consequences for such an action either. For every action, there's always going to be an equally positive/negative reaction to it. Although according to some studies, it's been proven that people that turn out to be gay were born that way because of their genetics.
But that hasn't stopped a lot of conservatives from arguing that being gay is actually a choice. Not something that people are born with. Therefore, many of them fear that by allowing their kids to be around openly gay people that it might influence them into becoming homosexuals themselves. Granted, I know a lot of liberals will laugh at that notion, but it's hardly a laughing matter when it comes to most conservatives; hence therein lies the rub.
Sure, it's easy for any of us to say something like, "Sesame Street should make Bert and Ernie a couple. We're an evolved society, and I'll bet hardly anyone would give a damn if they did. If anything, they'd probably increase their viewers more, and be viewed as the early pioneers that helped the gay rights movement!" Yes, all that sounds good on paper.
However, the reality is that prejudice against the LBGT community still exists. And even though we have made a lot of strides in our society for equality, but only a damn fool would say that making Bert and Ernie gay would come without its share of consequences.
Take in mind, there's no solid proof anyone has that Sesame Street's viewers would increase among the gay community if Bert and Ernie were turned into gay lovers. After all, many gay people already use them as something of a symbol for gay rights. Therefore, how would making it official on Sesame Street really change anything as far as increasing Sesame Street's views?
Plus , let's not forget that a lot of conservatives watch Sesame Street with their children, and many wouldn't like the idea of their child being exposed to that. As I mentioned earlier, many conservatives believe that homosexuality is a choice. Granted, many of them might not have a problem with homosexuality per say, but that doesn't mean that many of them would want their children exposed to it. Therefore, if Bert and Ernie were made into a gay couple, then Sesame Street would lose a huge chunk of their audience.
Not to mention it could hurt them in their merchandising sales like for toys, clothes and etc, as I'm pretty sure a lot of conservative parents will not only restrict their kids from watching the show, but it's safe to assume there might be a boycott over Sesame Street merchandise as well. Hence, Sesame Street could stand to lose money if they made Bert and Ernie an official couple on the show.
And, there's no proof that gay people would buy more Sesame Street merchandise either if that were to happen.
Controversy over Bert and Ernie´s New Yorker cover
Final Thoughts on this issue
To be honest, I think the producers of Sesame Street have the right idea by not saying anything definitively about Bert and Ernie's dubious sexuality. As a kid, one of the best things about "Sesame Street" is that everyone was welcomed. It never made anyone feel uncomfortable. And by not saying anything, it allows each individual viewer to take from the show whatever they want. If people are happy thinking Bert and Ernie are homos, then they're free to think that. If people don't want to believe they're gay, then don't. That's beauty of them not confirming or denying anything.
By not directly facing the issue, Sesame Street can have it's cake and eat it too so to speak. Gay people will still use them to promote gay rights, and it'll work in their favor for free advertising whenever shows like "Family Guy' and etc takes a lighthearted jabs at their alleged sexuality. And by not confirming they're gay, it allows Sesame Street to keep the conservative parents happy, and it guarantees zero possibility of a boycott.
Don't get me wrong, I would love it if Sesame Street did make such a gutsy move. In fact, I would have an even deeper respect for the show for being pioneers in equality; especially in a kids' program. In a lot of ways, it would remind me of George Reeves' classic superman film, "Superman and the Mole-Men", as it served as a great allegory for racism and tolerance back in the early fifties, when hatred and bigotry was openly accepted.
However, would I be willing to take the financial risk if I were one of the producers of Sesame Street? I would probably have to say no from a business perspective, for many of the reasons I already stated.
But for now, I think Sesame Street is making the right choice by being neutral if we're looking at this from a marketing perspective. From a marketing perspective, it seems like Sesame Street doesn't want to openly deny Bert and Ernie being gay by giving them both girlfriends, as that would anger a lot of gay civil rights leaders. But by not confirming their sexuality either, it allows them to still appeal to conservative as well. In a word, everyone wins by them not saying a damn thing.
Would it be groundbreaking if Bert and Ernie came out of the closet? Hell yeah. It would be like watching history in the making, but I doubt we'll see that happen in our lifetime. Besides, Jim Henson productions is right about one thing. They're just puppets anyway. They're not real, and they're only gay if the puppeteer controlling them wants them to be. And until that puppeteer does, then I'm afraid people rooting for their marriage probably shouldn't hold their breath on it.
However, one thing is certain. Bert and Ernie have and always will be a huge part of American pop culture, and beloved by children all over the world. Whether they're gay or straight, no one can deny that Bert and Ernie will always have a special place in our hearts.
Bert tries to disprove that he's gay by looking for a new roommate (Warning: Contains violence, gore, and adult language. Parental discretion is advised)
Bert and Ernie Poll #2
Should Bert and Ernie get married on Sesame Street?
© 2014 Steven Escareno