Bert and Ernieare supposedto teach ABCs,not LGBTQ

Christine M. Flowers - Guest Columnist
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Bert and Ernie are not gay. That I even have to say this is the problem, not the actual fact that they aren’t.

This week, long-time Sesame Street writer Mark Saltzman revealed that he wrote Bert and Ernie’s relationship as that of “a loving couple” and based it on his own relationship with film editor Arnold Glassman.

Soon after, Sesame Workshop took to Twitter with a denial — not just of Bert and Ernie’s romantic relationship but of the very concept of sexual orientation for puppets.

I’m with them.

It always seemed evident to me that Bert and Ernie were not gay because of the way they dressed. Clearly, neither of them would have fit in on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. (Though Kermit might be the Muppet most likely to be the target of a questionable #MeToo accusation from you-know-who.)

Have I offended you with the non-PC references yet? Christine, how dare you suggest that gay men must be well-dressed? And that not-so-veiled reference to Miss Piggy and the possibility that she’d lie? How dare you! Puppets must be believed!

I’m obviously joking.

Frankly, I find it easier to laugh about the topic than to take it seriously. Of course, Bert and Ernie aren’t gay. They’re just sweet, nebbish little animated socks who had to split the rent on a fourth-floor walk-up.

But these days, we need to worry about the backstories and implications of everything, from Supreme Court nominees to animated socks.

There is no question that Sesame Street has been on the cutting edge of diversity and inclusivity since the beginning. Over the years, the show included characters that reflect different demographics, such as Julia the autistic Muppet, and Muppets who had accents (other than the Count because there isn’t a huge lobby for Transylvanians in the U.S.) and Muppets whose parents were divorced. From the beginning, the human characters, such as Maria and Gordon and Mr. Hooper, were of different ethnicities, and some of the vignettes were in Spanish, which was very exotic for 1969, when the show started. Teaching kids from an early age that everything and everyone has value is, unquestionably, one of the most positive lessons Sesame Street can impart on its viewers.

But Sesame Street is not — and should not be — in the business of helping kids explore their sexuality. It’s always been a show geared to the youngest of the young, the toddler set who were too tiny to really understand sex at all. No 3- or 4- or 5-year-old should have to deal with a topic that will cause them decades of angst later in life.

Children shouldn’t be forced to acknowledge their sexuality as toddlers. That’s not a burden that should be placed on their young shoulders. I call it “burden” not because we should have a negative view of different forms of sexuality, but because children should not have to think about those concepts while trying to figure out what number comes after “7” or what letter comes after “K.”

I’m tired of adults turning childhood into some version of The Real Housewives of Sesame Street. Reality is a good thing, but children should be able to suspend it for the first few, sweet years. Making Bert and Ernie’s sexual orientation an issue deprives Sesame Street’s prime audience of living an unencumbered childhood.

The creator of the Muppets, Frank Oz, has denied that the pair are gay.

The LGBTQ community is angry.

To that I say, just wait. The kids will learn about those other letters soon enough.

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Christine M. Flowers

Guest Columnist

Christine M. Flowers is a lawyer and columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News. Readers may send her email at [email protected].

Christine M. Flowers is a lawyer and columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News. Readers may send her email at [email protected].