Bert & Ernie aren’t gay after all. Mark Saltzman, the Sesame Street writer who this week seemingly suggested that he intended the pair to be a gay couple, is now walking back those remarks, saying they were “misinterpreted.”
As previously reported by the Inquisitr, on Tuesday Saltzman reportedly revealed that the beloved characters, who share an apartment at 123 Sesame Street but sleep in separate beds, are a gay couple. Saltzman said that, in his mind, the couple was gay.
“I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert & Ernie, they were [gay]. I didn’t have any other way to contextualize them.”
Needless to say, the bomb dropped on the children’s television industry had repercussions far and wide. Some internet users chuckled at Saltzman’s “admission” of what they always suspected with a wink and a nod – a relationship that has been parodied on, for example, Family Guy, Friends, and The Simpsons. Others were outraged, accusing the show of having an agenda.
Beyond the internet’s reactions was the fact that people associated with Sesame Street were lining up to distance themselves from Saltzman’s comments. The Children’s Television Workshop, for example, pointedly said that Bert & Ernie were just “best friends,” according to BBC News.
“They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves.”
Bert and Ernie. Best friends. Roommates. Lovers? Mark Saltzman, a former “Sesame Street” writer, said that his comments were misinterpreted. "They are two guys who love each other." https://t.co/iAOlO1ocHA— The New York Times (@nytimes) September 19, 2018
Similarly, Muppets creator Frank Oz told NBC News rather directly that the characters that he created are not gay, although he also asked, pointedly, how the pair’s supposed sexuality even matters.
“They’re not [gay], of course. But why that question? Does it really matter? Why the need to define people as only gay?”
Now Saltzman himself is walking back from his remarks, The New York Post is reporting.
Saltzman, who is himself openly gay and in a long-term relationship, says that his own life experiences informed his writing of Bert & Ernie. He also says the dynamic between himself and his partner, Arnold Glassman, also inspired Bert & Ernie’s interactions.
That doesn’t mean that he intended the pair to be a gay couple, he says.
“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.”
Saltzman did say, however, that he hopes Sesame Street will someday include gay characters, but that he wants those characters to be humans, not puppets.