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  3. Sesame Street Season 49
    Sesame Street's 49th season officially began Saturday November 17 on HBO. After you see the new episodes, post here and let us know your thoughts.

Bert and Ernie Gay Rumor: Settled

Discussion in 'Sesame Street' started by Fozzie Bear, Jan 30, 2010.

  1. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear Well-Known Member

    I get a little moody when fans still as or question this. Seriously, what children's show have you ever known to touch on that topic? They haven't even touched on parents who smoke around asthmatic children.

    In 1993, I got the Official Statement from (then) Children's Television Workshop.

    We'll keep this topic in this thread ONLY please, as we who are fans know it was a rumor. It isn't discussed on Sesame Street, and you know my rule as a moderator: if it's said on SS, TMS, or FR then I'll allow it here on MC. Any discussion about it outside this thread is illegal.

    Part of what they sent me includes a statement about the rumor that Ernie was going to be retired from the show.

    So, what's wrong with characters remaining innocent and showing that, no matter how different you are, you can be friends with each other.

    http://i193.photobucket.com/albums/z24/muleytmule/Other Stuff/EBGayStatement1.jpg

    http://i193.photobucket.com/albums/z24/muleytmule/Other Stuff/EBGayStatement2.jpg

    http://i193.photobucket.com/albums/z24/muleytmule/Other Stuff/EBGayStatement3.jpg

    Edited to add:

    I've read the following posts in this thread. To emphasize, I won't allow any prejudice or judgement in this thread. Everyone has a right to their opinion. Any bshing does eual a suspension.

    I've seen comparisons where Laurel & Hardy r the 3 Stooges are mentioned sharing a bed, and no one's mentioned Looney Tunes characters dressing in drag or Chaplin's insulting his foe males with a kiss.

    Ultimately, the representation of what the story is or the characters are will lie only in the 'eye of the beholder,' and what works to the means to define one's own walk of life. That is an acceptible answer and appreciated by me who appreciates everyone individually.
  2. frogboy4

    frogboy4 Inactive Member

    I see YES and NO as the correct, yet "unofficial" answer

    All Muppets are abstractions of humanity. That's clearly always been the intention since the very beginning with Sam & Friends.
    :p :(
    Therefore, those of us gay folk who relate the nature of Bert and Ernie as a gay couple aren't wrong. We see the bits and pieces that strike a chord with us. In the same spirit, straight folk who see their plutonic friendships through the characters are just as correct. This is what I liken to the Muppet Rorschach Test. It's how the Muppets have always been and to deny that is to deny ourselves. And for people to use the Muppets as a divisive tool denies the very spirit of the Muppets.

    What I find disturbing is that this matters at all to people. It shouldn't. People from all walks of life work with the Muppets and the fans know no limits either. Earlier this week talk show host Chris Matthews remarked how he forgot that our President was black half-way through what he felt was a stirring State of the Union speech. His intention was that the stature of the man and the passion in his words were universal. Of course that's debatable and I won't go into that content. The fact is it didn't matter to him what color our President is. It was a "look how far we've come!" moment that turned into a "why should it matter what perceived color he is?" moment.

    Prejudice is ingrained into every single one of us. It's shaped by our lives and environment. We all come from somewhere different. If there's anything the Muppets have taught us it's that we should respect one another and delight in our differences.

    Sesame Street's characters were created to entertain kids and the adults attending to them too. This was very important to the performers in the early years. Many of the post-Jim statements are odd to me because Sesame Workshop representatives seem to have forgotten that. We've all heard differing reports from performers and other staff over the years, but in the end...why does it even matter? I will choose to see myself in Ernie and a particular past partner in Bert. Ultimately they're just very colorful puppets for frog's sake. :)
  3. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    Here's what I say...

    There's a difference between a playful joke or rumor thrown together by drunken college students (there's enough funny rumors and jokes about Scooby-Doo alone for 30 Family Guy cut-a-ways alone), and the mindless rumblings from an angry group using the same cut to conclusions thinking to spread their hateful rhetoric. I don't get offended when someone jokingly says "oh, those Ernie and Bert dudes are so gay." but I get furious when some group claims that "Ernie and Bert are gay, and that's trying to brainwash our children into being tolerant!" It's that group that turned a goofy little joke into something far sinister.

    As what I think? No. Bert is far too anal retentive to be able to stick with a woman (think Jon Arbuckle), and Ernie's stuck in a state of perpetual childhood... Arrested Development... Peter Pan complex... whatever you want to call it.

    Now... :confused: and :eek: I wonder about. Especially that scene at the end of LTS. :D
  4. frogboy4

    frogboy4 Inactive Member

    Am I reading that wrong or are you saying that tolerance is a sinister idea. I must be reading that wrong. :p

    Now manipulation is terrible. I hate that.
  5. RedPiggy

    RedPiggy Well-Known Member

    There are people who believe tolerance is just another word for "sinnin' up a storm an' likin' it".

    I can see both concepts about Ernie and Bert. While I personally don't think they are, I found Rod and Nicky to be rather spot on, LOL. However, as others have noted, it really shouldn't matter, particularly in a universe where a frog can be in love with a pig, a weirdo can love a chicken, and human guest/co-stars can flirt with Muppets and no one bats an eye. It's an argument I made in That Diamond Ring Turns Brass -- there's simply far too much diversity in the Muppetverse to gripe about this.
  6. frogboy4

    frogboy4 Inactive Member

    I've heard some television preachers claim that culture has altered the definition of tolerance into one of enforced-acceptance, but tolerance is still technically defined the same way it has always been - a do unto others sort of attitude. Tolerance is how we all get along without having to forsake our beliefs. That's still a good thing no matter what some particular televangelists say.

    Hey, San Francisco even tolerated those terrible Phelps people who hate everybody when they were picketing gays and Jews last week. They're the same folk that picket soldiers' funerals with strange and horribly judgemental signs. Now *that's* tolerance I just don't have.

    I don't believe everyone can get along, but I do believe that most of us can if we choose to.

    Back to Sesame Street. Looking at all this archived material during the aniversary has reminded me just how much of the show's edges have been sanded down over the years. I really wish they'd go back to how things were. The Street is still a cool place, but it used to be far better.
    MJTaylor likes this.
  7. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    No no no! I'm talking about the evil groups that whine about people "forcing" tolerance down their kids throats, so they can keep their kids fearful and ignorant and tools of the leaders of these organizations.

    People that manipulate kid's programming to scare parents into believing their backwards agenda of hatred, fear and control.
  8. Super Scooter

    Super Scooter Well-Known Member

    ... Has a heterosexual relationship ever been depicted in the puppets of Sesame Street? I don't think it has, other than with more adult characters like Oscar and the Count.

    To me, Ernie and Bert are first of all puppets, second of all, kids. They're just kids. If Ernie had a girlfriend, that would be wrong to me, because it would seem out of character. If Ernie and Bert were a "couple," that would feel wrong to me as well. Again, it's out of character. I don't think I could see either of them pursuing a romantic relationship with anyone or with each other. It would be a mistake if Sesame Workshop ever attempted it (which I'm sure they wouldn't).

  9. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    Well... that does bring up an interesting point. The only times I've seen puppet relationships, they were ALL adult characters, mostly soap opera parody and songs and stuff like that. I mean, there is clearly a hinted chemistry between Zoe and Elmo in the sort of, they're friends now, but they'll grow into something more when they're theoretically older (it's pretty strongly hinted at in EIG, to me anyway). But the only time I recall seeing a kid muppet in love was when Elmo had a crush on Gina. And that was about it.
  10. Super Scooter

    Super Scooter Well-Known Member

    And what kid DIDN'T have a crush on Gina? :flirt:
  11. frogboy4

    frogboy4 Inactive Member

    I get ya. :super:

    I'm not a fan of today's kid's programming executives. I feel they're responsible for watering things down. Everything has to serve a specific purpose in a labeled box. I don't think that way and the Muppets used to be much more spontaneous. I also saw Bert, Ernie, Kermit and Oscar as Sesame's Muppet grown-ups when I watched them. I guess people see different things. It's art afterall. :wisdom:
  12. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    No matter how much you water things down, you'll always offend some knucklehead.

    That said, no one EVER complained (to my knowledge) about the cartoon series Space Goofs. They had a character called Candy who left NO interpretation about the character's ...err... standing... and that was on Fox Kids for the longest time, no complaint...
  13. Katzi428

    Katzi428 Well-Known Member

    All right,may I have my say please?
    When Sesame Street first started in 1969,nobody thought that Bert & Ernie living together was strange. They were friends & that was it. Then some idiots must've started the rumor a decade or so later,"Oh...since Bert & Ernie live together,they must be gay!" It's a
    children's program for Pete's sake! To my knowledge,I don't think kids see anything wrong with Bert & Ernie living together!
  14. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    That said, I always considered Ernie and Bert some sort of homage to Neil Simon... you know, The Odd Couple. Ernie and Bert are completely like Oscar and Felix.
  15. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear Well-Known Member

    Or Clouseau and Kato...without the violence. Just a Rubber Duckie and bottlecaps.

    For me, rather than associating their relationship as mine and another, I associate more with their personalities and friendship. That and the contrast of design. I also am a good contrast to my friends: they are sane, and I'm looney.
  16. dwmckim

    dwmckim Well-Known Member

    First of all Kevin, thank you for having a dedicated thread for this topic. Given some of the MC Forum's darker moments of suppression of gay perspectives (which ultimately causes major disrespect of the Muppets' gay fanbase), it's nice to see that level of respect/validation of MC's gay members but also the MC community's ability to intelligently discuss this as a whole.

    [I'm warning everyone now - this will be a long post - as this is pretty much a major essay i was saving for Muppet Freak (and may repost there if i can get back to maintaining it). This will be a long read but i encourage everyone to take the time to read and mull it over even if it means saving it for later when you have more time as i promise that everyone who does take the time to read this will gain some valuable insight regardless of where their own stances/experiences may lie...]

    Ernie and Bert are open to such debates and questions as to whether they're gay or not mainly because EVERYTHING about E&B is ambiguous and left open to question/interpretation. They're abstract colors transcending race; they transcend age - sometimes seeming as if they're children and other times adults; even their very (ingenius) simple minimalistic designs emphasize their universality in just about all areas. There are so many ways people can view Ernie and Bert in a number of categories; orientation being just one of them. (Even in the climactic scene in Follow That Bird when Maria's listing all the examples of different creatures living and peacefully co-existing on Sesame Street, "Bert and Ernie" seem to be included as a class of their own!]

    Not counting tie-ins like books or anything of that nature, you'll note that there's never any reference to either Bert or Ernie's parents on the show. They have Aunt Matildas, twin brothers, nephews - but the question of who/where are their parents is forever never addressed - as it opens up the question of "how old are they?" and "how did they come to live together?" - two questions that would take away much of their ambiguity/universality.

    Homophobic people often tend to define gay people strictly by their sexuality and more specific - their actual practices! Something that society does _not_ do with straight people. People that are more enlighted know that a gay person's being gay is one small part of who they are overall; on the par with what color their hair is and left/right-handedness. The only thing that binds gay people together is the fact that they are attracted and drawn towards those of the same gender. What kind of relationships/values each individual holds onto and how they behave in their interactions are all very different from person to person - as is the case with their straight counterparts.

    I'm one of those rare individuals in 21st century American society - someone who maintains old-fashioned values in terms of virginity and saving myself for a life partner and who strongly values and looks for the friendship-based connections in a partner far over the sex-based. That's rare enough in straight society these days; in gay society - well... let's just say i've long ago made my peace with the idea that i'm destined to spend my life alone.

    I would not want to see E&B (or any other Sesame Muppet save for those rare ones who are unmistakably adult and coupled like Humphrey and Ingrid) display more grown-up levels of displays of affection regardless of gender. It's out of place and not appropriate for its intended audience. We can see Luis and Maria or Gordon and Susan kiss each other but it will always be that "friendly" kiss that parents do in front of the children - not the "adult"-style kissing one would see in more grown up fare (including from their adult Muppet counterparts like Kermit and Piggy!) How people express their love for each other - including the married adults - is all gauged with how appropriate it is for the audience they serve.

    In this aspect, Ernie and Bert are as far from a gay couple there can be. They may hug from time to time but they won't kiss (unless it was in a more comical context). Those are all issues the audience won't even begin to understand until later in life...right now they're still learning the alphabet, language skills, and concepts like "far" and "near".

    A sidenote - in earlier sketches, Bert has been established as being able to have a girlfriend. He makes reference to one in the audio version of "I Want to Hold Your Ear" and there was a street story where Bert fell in love with a girl named Bertha (a female version of Bert!) I don't remember Bertha lasting more than one episode though.

    However, Sesame Street CAN and DOES have a way they can introduce children to the reality and acceptance of gay people ... though you'll probably never see them tout this in a press release given the volatile nature of being a kids show on public broadcasting - for many years, they have included a healthy number of gay celebrities visiting the street. It's never said that they are...some have been in various states of being out when they made their appearances, but they've ranged from the "open secret" caliber of Lily Tomlin and Jodie Foster to open and not afraid if people know it such as Ellen Degeneris, R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe, Nathan Lane, Rosie O'Donnell and Neil Patrick Harris to flamboyantly unmistakably gay figures as Harvey Fierstein. Children see them interacting with their favorite characters, find them friendly, funny, and entertaining and as someone who would make a great friend. That's EXACTLY how it should be done and SW has done this EXTRAORDINARILY well for a long time. Kudos should also be given for showing a gay couple in the brief montage of different kind of families in the Family episode of Elmo's World. SW may not be able to devote a sketch or song to the issue of gay families/parents in today's political climate (even divorce and seperation is touchy enough - with the late 80's "Mama's tree is over there, right here is Daddy's tree / They live in different places but they both love me" still pretty much the definitive... and well done... sketch on the matter) - but in a brief montage like that, they can fit the message in (with still a fair amount of risk - after all we all saw the huge overreactive firestorm over POX News TWO YEARS AFTER THE FACT!)

    All of what i've said so far leads to this...What E&B ARE able to show is the Value and Importance of Friendship in its Highest Form. Pure and unconditional (though sometimes having to be worked at). They represent how all levels of friends should deal with each other - whether it's children playmates, straight best buds, or yes...gay couples. Remember when i said how i personally value friendship-based relationships with my (pretty much hypothetical!) partners over sex-based ones? E&B totally represent the best of platonic friendships and values and that's what i get out of them and why gay people can identify with them so strongly. In part because they do carry the innocence that comes with childhood (in their part-adult, part-kid like nature) relationships and perspectives. They can both be friends and not be shy about or hold back in expressing their love (however you wish to define it) for each other. That's something humankind should strive for in general and gays value to acheive in particular. So there's a certain amount of openness mixed with purity that E&B represent that can be viewed as parallels with not only gay relationships but also "bromances" or strong straight same-gender friendships. When people get older and they learn about the differences between gay and straight (and the oft-neglected degrees in between), they grow afraid to express love and affection or develop strong bonds with those of the same gender (males especially). This is truly one of the biggest shames of modern society but E&B are among our greatest teachers of how to get "back to basics" with our varied levels of friendship. That ultimately is what E&B are all about no matter how one interprets the specifics of their friendship level.

    In closing i do have to address Gary Knell's infamous statement in answer to The Question: "They are not gay, they are not straight, they are puppets. They don't exist below the waist." On the one hand, that could be interpreted as a rather homophobic way to answer the question as it goes back to what i mentioned about the unbalanced tendancy for people to define gays by their affectional habits (the fact that he at least gets in the "they are not straight" in equal footing saves him from really being offensive). However even though that particular statement could leave a bad taste in some people's mouths, one must consider the mentality of the bulk of the people he's addressing that statement towards and he actually sets it in terms that they will most likely understand and relate to. So i give him a pass - he's talking in terms those who most need to "get the message" need for it to sink in so i can applaud that while at the same time would hope he would use a different tone if he was directly addressing a more enlightened audience.
  17. frogboy4

    frogboy4 Inactive Member

    That perfectly states it. That's at the heart at Sesame Street and the Muppets.

    This is an issue that is seldom addressed. Less enlightened folk seem to think we hang upside down from the chandeliers while naked and eating toast, but not any more than "straight" folk. Most of us are relatively normal. Not that there's anything wrong with such Gonzo-like behavior. There's also the idea that tolerance = recruitment. It doesn't. There's enough gay folk in the world already, there's no need to recruit and it wouldn't work anyway.

    I commend you. A lot of us are rather conservative in terms of values. People of all persuasions misspend their youth. It's not a gay thing, however without a legal component to a couple's commitment it's easy for gay folk to become arrested in their development. Who wants to live in college bar culture forever? I don't.

    Agreed. There are several groups out there that think that's what we want. It's not. I don't want to see any of the characters going out on an official date. Even though it would be interesting to know what kind of monster would date Grover - it's inappropriate for the Street.

    You have a way of hitting the nail on the head with this stuff. Nicely put! :super:
  18. Beauregard

    Beauregard Well-Known Member

    Yes to the first, yes to the second, and yes to to the third. (In other words: I totally agree.)

    I was rather disturbed to read someone's post on this subject a few days ago, where they said that if Ernie were to hang out with Abby it would put to rest the rumours surrounding him. I didn't comment in that thread because I didn't want to stir more, but since this thread is already dedicated to the topic I'm just going to throw out there that being seen hanging out with a 3-year-old girl Puppet a straight-guy Puppet does not make.

    Which comes back to the basic argument here, that they are Puppets and they are (presumably) kids and they are intended for a young-child audience -- relationships are not an issue for the kids at that age therefore Sesame Street doesn't need to address them. Kids need to see people who are friends and who care about each other at a heart-to-heart level, not a romantic level.

    Nothing frustrates me more than feeling that if I spend a great deal of time with a girl, people will think I'm in love with them. Or that if I spend a great deal of time with a guy, that I'm in love with them. Obviously people's opinions shouldn't affect me, but I've always found it hard to form friendships worried what people will think. Ernie and Bert, Elmo and Zoe...They are great examples of people who are friends and perfectly happy to be so.
  19. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    I just wanna add this, since I was thinking about this last night. Is a character gay if they're just portrayed as the same tired cliche of being bouncy and thhpeaking with a Daffy Duck Litthp? Again, I bring up Candy of Space Goofs or Waylon Smithers and his ability to barely hide it (something that was hinted at years ago, and then became all what the character was about... something Simpsons characters are famous for. There's a term called Flanderization... ).

    Are characters like this supposed to be the cartoony stereotype to distance people from the fact that anyone can be different, and they don't have to act Jar Jar Binks like as a sign? If they showed people who act "normally" (note use of quotes) in the same situation, would more people be upset at the fact they aren't basically doing the equivalent of blackface? You know, laughing at the stereotypes to distance themselves and cartoonify what they believe?

    In that case, is the only Muppet who really is Howard Huge (as he was portayed in VMX)? I still say Bunsen and Beaker, myself. Well... at least Bunsen. :D

    That said, when it comes to me, I have a grouch mentality... it doesn't matter what color, gender or whatever you are, I hate everyone equally! :grouchy:

    The Freak speaks the truth. To me, Bert always seemed to be a little older, more like a mature behaving Big brother who has to put up Ernie's playful teasing. What exact situation left them to live together? Are they a couple? Are they just 2 college age roomates that have to split rent? Did Bert get kicked out of his wife's apartment and Ernie was the only one to take him in? Or are they orphaned boys that have to live together to take care of each other? It's never explained, and in these situations, explanation just waters down the magic of the characters. And especially since the characters have ambiguous ages... I said it before, but logically Grover shouldn't be able to even hold down 1 job if he ain't at least 16.

    Everything's open to interpretation. And There's a lot of fun in trying to explain everything else. But, as I said earlier... there's a difference between psychologically dissecting cartoon characters and Muppets for fun and discussion, and people who pull logic out of their butts to further hateful agenda of any kind.
  20. matleo

    matleo Well-Known Member

    the best answer I've heard to the Ernie and Bert are gay rumor (and I can't remeber who said but it was someone from SW) was this...

    "What difference does it make? They're puppets. They don't have anything below the waist!"

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