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Bert and Ernie are gay if you want them to be, says Sesame Street exec

Bert and Ernie are gay if you want them to be, says Sesame Street exec

Bert and Ernie

If you want Bert and Ernie to be gay, then they are, according to a Sesame Street executive.

Brown Johnson is the executive vice president of Sesame Workshop, an American nonprofit organization responsible for Sesame Street.

‘People can think whatever they want [about Bert and Ernie],’ he told the Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday (6 February). ‘You want to think they’re gay? Ok.’

But he then said: ‘You want to think they’re not gay? They’re not gay.’

The interview came about as it’s been 50 years since Sesame Street first aired.

Carol Burnett, who appeared in the very first episode on 10 November, 1969, said: ‘I didn’t know anything about it when they asked me to be on.

‘[I]t was a marvelous show. I kept going back for more. I think one time I was an asparagus,’ she said.

Bert and Ernie: Lovers or just roommates?

In September last year, songwriter Mark Saltzman, who worked on Sesame Street during the show’s heyday, said he believed Bert and Ernie were a gay couple.

He said: ‘I remember one time that a column from The San Francisco Chronicle, a preschooler in the city turned to mom and asked “are Bert and Ernie lovers?”’ he said. ‘And that, coming from a preschooler was fun.’

‘That got passed around, and everyone had their chuckle and went back to it,’ he added. ‘And I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert and Ernie, they were. I didn’t have any other way to contextualize them,’ he said.

Bert and Ernie (Photo: See-ming Lee / Flickr)
Bert and Ernie. | Photo: See-ming Lee / Flickr

The comments made international headlines, with many debating whether or not they were gay.

It caused such a furore, that Sesame Street came out and clarified Bert and Ernie are ‘best friends’ without a sexual orientation.

Sesame Street puppeteer Frank Oz initially came out and said they’re not a gay couple.

‘I created Bert,’ he wrote on Twitter. ‘I know what and who he is.’

Oz later changed his mind and tweeted: ‘A last thought: If Jim [Henson] and I had created Bert and Ernie as gay characters, they would be inauthentic coming from two straight men.

‘However, I have now learned that many view them as representative of a loving gay relationship.

‘And that’s pretty wonderful. Thanks for helping me understand,’ he said.

See also:

We deserve more LGBTI representation in family-friendly media

Kids weigh in on Bert and Ernie debate

Yes, Sesame Street’s denial that Bert and Ernie are gay is homophobic