Are Sesame Street pals Ernie and Bert gay? Twitter debates


Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie have symbolized the values of friendship for years: A newly resurfaced debate focuses on whether the puppet pals are gay.

“Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street?” Children of all ages know the joys of Sesame Street, where the beloved song’s lyrics tell us “everything’s a-okay.” Well, maybe not, at least if you’ve become part of the increasingly heated debate that’s still going strong over Sesame Street puppet pals Bert and Ernie.

How did this brouhaha begin? Follow us down and around the winding path to Sesame Street‘s ongoing “are they gay” debate.

Sesame Street writer says Bert and Ernie are a “loving couple”

The Bert-and-Ernie argument began again this week when Mark Saltzman, who devoted 15 years to writing for The Muppets (including penning songs and scripts for Sesame Street), talked with Queerty about the duo.

Saltzman recalled when a newspaper column described a pre-school kid asking a parent, “Are Bert and Ernie lovers?” That question gave those who heard it a “chuckle,” says Mark. But he also clarifies that “without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert and Ernie, they were [lovers].”

The Sesame Street writer also revealed that “more than one person referred to Arnie and I as ‘Bert and Ernie.'” The reference to Arnie is film editor Arnold Glassman, who was “[his] life partner” and “the love of [his] life,” Saltzman noted.

Saltzman said that he “was already with Arnie when I came to Sesame Street. So I don’t think I’d know how else to write them, but as a loving couple.”

Sesame Street organization turns to Twitter (twice) to disagree

However, the nonprofit educational organization responsible for Sesame Street and other endeavors didn’t agree. Turning to Twitter, the Sesame Workshop first posted its belief that the puppets don’t have sexual orientations. Instead, Bert and Ernie represent the very best of what it means to have best friends.

But the debate didn’t end there. Twitter users heated up the argument, with some contending that Sesame Street should represent different sexual orientations.

Sesame Workshop soon followed up its original post with a clarification, this time putting the emphasis on how Sesame Street represents “inclusion and acceptance.”

Saltzman clarifies his remarks

After the interview gained popularity, Saltzman clarified the original comments he made in an interview with the New York Times on Tuesday. The writer found that some were misinterpreting his comments, saying,

"As a writer, you just bring what you know into your work… Somehow, in the uproar, that turned into Bert and Ernie being gay. There is a difference…. They are two guys who love each other. That’s who they are."

According to the NYT story, Saltzman believed “Sesame Street should include a gay couple in its programming,” but moreso with human characters.

Puppeteer Frank Oz offers his views

At this point, Frank Oz decided it was time to offer his unique point of view. After serving as the voice of what NBC News described as “dozens of puppets and muppets,” the famous puppeteer also turned to Twitter to opine on whether Bert and Ernie are gay.

Oz referred directly to the origin of the argument, referencing former Sesame Street contributor’s Mark Saltzman’s statement that he viewed the pals as a couple.

“It seems Mr. Mark Saltzman was asked if Bert & Ernie are gay. It’s fine that he feels they are. They’re not, of course,” Oz wrote on Twitter.

“But why that question? Does it really matter? Why the need to define people as only gay? There’s much more to a human being than just straightness or gayness.”

Twitter didn’t spare the puppeteer in arguing with him, at which point Oz abruptly halted his side of the argument.

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Whose side do you agree with on this debate? Share your comments below.

This story was updated to include Mark Saltzman’s statements from the New York Times.