Bert and Ernie tying the knot
I was excited to hear that a petition was going around to Sesame Street’s creators suggesting that Bert and Ernie finally get married. Given the strides we have been making for gay rights this year, I feel like it’s really the right time for this to happen, and Bert and Ernie are great candidates for a gay couple.
Sadly, Sesame Street released a statement saying that Bert and Ernie are puppets and have no sexual orientation, and that they are just good friends who live together. More than a few people jumped on the “well, duh, they’re puppets, not people” bandwagon. Apparently puppets live in houses, can talk, have conflicts with each other that they solve, and are otherwise quite anthropomorphic. But two male puppets getting married? Duh, puppets can’t get married. The argument is just silly to me. Why is it that the puppets can be anthropomorphic to the extent that they can teach children real lessons, but it suddenly becomes silly to do the same to teach children about gay people?
I am disappointed that Sesame Street would shy away from addressing a real issue society faces given their history of tackling difficult and controversial subjects. Though no muppets that I know of have gotten married on the show, humans on the show have. There was absolutely no backfire of people complaining that children that young may not know what a wedding is.
And Sesame Street completely failed to see the message of what we were asking for when we petitioned for Bert and Ernie to tie the knot. This wasn’t a bunch of viewers trying to have an influence on a specific thing the two characters did. This was a request for Sesame Street to have an episode to teach children about the notion of gay people. Framing it in a wedding is a great way to accomplish that. You don’t have to explain concepts of sexual attraction. Sesame street simply would demonstrate here that two characters love each other. It has nothing to do with the fact that they’re puppets. Sesame Street didn’t even have to have it be Bert and Ernie getting married. They just seemed like the logical choice, since they are already unofficially regarded as a gay icon of sorts.
Even the argument that the children are too young to be exposed to thoughts of marriage in general, let alone same sex marriage, is hogwash. Shielding children from knowing about other sexual orientations or the notion of a sexual orientation in general only leads to a heteronormative world view. When the children become teenagers and start to discover that some of their friends (r even they) are gay, it’s opening up a world of confusion that only exists because of this notion that they needed to be “protected” when they were younger.
And let’s not forget here that we are already teaching children to appreciate and be aware of familial diversity. We work hard to teach children that families are all different. Some families have two parents, some have just one, some have separated parents, some children are adopted. We push hard to cover all the bases, only to suddenly stop short when it comes time to say that some families might have two dads or two moms.
I hope Sesame Street takes the opportunity to step up on this issue. They will surely offend some people doing this, but only the people delusional enough to think they can be well-adjusted people without being aware of and accepting of gay people. And it doesn’t have to be Bert and Ernie. They can be the human characters.