Inside the Bert and Ernie Marriage Campaign

bert-and-ernie.jpg
Sesame Street's Bert and Ernie have been living together for 40 years. And now, an online petition demanding that Sesame Street allow Bert and Ernie to wed is circulating. As of this posting it has almost 4,500 signatures. "Let us teach tolerance of those that are different," the petition's description reads. "Let Sesame Street and PBS Kids be a big part in saving many worthy lives." Admirable intentions, but are Bert and Ernie even gay? And even if they are, why should two puppets on a kids' show get married?

We called up the creator of the campaign, Lair Scott, for his perspective on the push to make honest puppets out of Bert and Ernie. Scott, 53, is the executive director of the Toledo LGBTQ Center, though he now lives in Chicago. He's been an activist for various causes since the age of 14, he said.

Scott was inspired to launch the campaign after noticing a friend's Facebook post about how long Bert and Ernie had been living together in sin. He decided to do something about it. When I asked him whether he was sure Bert and Ernie were in a relationship, he said, "Are you sure?"

"It's been implied for too long," Scott said. "And especially for the gay community. Even when I was nine years old, I knew that Bert and Ernie weren't just roommates."

PBS doesn't share Scott's stance on the issue. They would only issue a statement via the Sesame Workshop, which said:

Bert and Ernie are best friends. They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves. Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics (as most Sesame Street Muppets™ do), they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation.

bert and ernie bed .jpg
Scott said "they might be best friends, but best friends get married. You live with a guy for 40 years -- come on, Sesame Street." According to Scott, "we're talking about educating children and parents on a new kind of marriage. That's all I can tell them. It's that simple."

Scott also has some campaigns in mind for the Disney Channel. "We're not just targeting one situation," he said. "If the gay community is going through all this change, let's bring it to the forefront of equality." He is running the campaign himself, with some help from a few others, and thinks they have a good shot at getting a wedding for Bert and Ernie.

Elsewhere, the campaign has been met with a mix of bemusement and suspicion. At Videogum, the petition is called "misguided" -- same at Jezebel. And there are a number of counter-petitions springing up at change.org, like "Preserve the Innocence of Sesame Street- Keep Bert and Ernie As Friends!". It's true that Bert and Ernie are merely felt puppets, and probably don't even have sexual organs. Videogum's Gabe argues that "There is...absolutely no reason to brush a patina of ACTUAL SEX onto this relationship." Well, duh.

But Bert and Ernie wouldn't be having sex on camera, we assume? And besides, why is everyone acting like they're still avid aficionados of Sesame Street? If Bert and Ernie want to get married, hell, let them. It's legal now!

[rgray@villagevoice.com] [@_rosiegray]

Check out the rest of Runnin' Scared, the Village Voice's New York news blog.

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35 comments
Terrioke
Terrioke

We all know that young children will not know exactly what gay means...not the issue. One is that they will be more apt to be accepting, compassionate and not become bullies or haters!!!

Rui Manuel
Rui Manuel

super article! and @35a9f0cb2716518b9d431eab001f9896:disqus , have you noticed that your 3 or 4 yeras old children are introduced to the same kind of discussions, they portray heterosexual relationships too - I bet that is of no problem to you...

Songbyrd76
Songbyrd76

Maybe instead of trying to prove a point via muppets there should be a push for more education & dialogue about bullying & the consequences of intolerance.....lessons like these help our children to become more understanding, more open minded & able to accept the diversity that exists beyond their front doors!  Rather then watch Bert & Ernie get married I'd rather see them standing up to a bully & teaching my children how to do the same!

Armand
Armand

Wow. I don't know what to say about this. I grew up as an Assembly of God Christian for 18 years. If Bert and Ernie are gay so what? Let them. It's obviously been implied for a while now. I'm all for gay rights but come on. Our nation was founded on the Holy Bible. According to the Bible, homosexuality is an abominable act but we are given a choice to do as we please. Also sin is a sin. I don't believe its right to expose children to this type of adult material. Its like letting a child walk around with a tank top, heels, high lighted hair. Not happening. I feel the need for equality but at least its getting somewhere. They are already allowing gay marriage in some states. Its not what every homosexual wants but hell its a start at the least. I think progress for the gays is going pretty dam good if you ask me. No need to expose children to that. If parents want to exposue children to that, its on them and they can do that on their own. We can respect their rights as they respect the rights of the gay community.

Nexus974
Nexus974

Oh for goodness sakes!It's a kids show for crying out loud! Is it too much to ask to allow kids to be kids for awhile and not push sexuality down their throats?

Goneredfishin
Goneredfishin

Are you freakin kidding me? what in the world are you thinking? it's bad enough that we are subject to this "new gay climate" on a daily basis with normal T.V. I will not stand for you to try and pervert the minds of our children too.. if you choose to distort the children in your life that is your choice.. But don't push your perverted way of life onto others and call it "equality". This is a simple program designed to teach little kids how to spell, count, recognize shapes and colors and other kid friendly fun. it's not a platform for some homosexual agenda. it's time "WE"; Who still believe in the "Normal" christian values and, the simple way of life to stand up and cry "FOUL" enough is enough! if you don't like it; leave!! We were here first!! go crawl back to where ever it is you came from and leave us alone.

Rangergirl
Rangergirl

Actually, i don't think you were here first, i'm pretty sure gay people were around long before Christianity came around. It certainly existed in Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome before Christianity did.

To reply to another comment, the fact that they sleep in separate beds really doesn't prove anything. For years, heterosexual married couples on TV had to sleep in separate beds because television was not allowed to show them in the same bed.

That being said, i have never though of Bert and Ernie as being gay and it reminds me of that whole incident of Tinky Winky on the Teletubbies. People thought he was gay because he's purple and has a triangle on his head. I don't think any of the puppets on Sesame Street are sexual at all. I have no problem talking about homosexuality on Sesame Street, i think it's great to teach kids tolerance, but i don't think Bert and Ernie have to get married in order to do that.

Nns8
Nns8

Why not have two real actors (or actresses) have a gay wedding on Sesame Street and let the puppets continue to be teaching tools about being friends with people who annoy you?  Then the two real actors can have real actor children and we can bring the diversity of gay family life to the show.  Sesame Street has always showcased ethnic diversity.  A Bert and Ernie wedding would be a cop-out from adding real human diversity to the show.

Yesenia Santiago
Yesenia Santiago

 OMG, as parent I feel those are children characters and should been left that way !!! We will be discussing this matter and many others that concern our children of today , so log on to inthemixxradio.com from 8pm to 10pm and please chat with us and give your opinion!

Chocolate123
Chocolate123

well, all I can say is that God created , Adam and eve.  NOT, Adam and steve

Hurikaneg3
Hurikaneg3

Omfg are you fuckin kidding me? Sick people are asking for some cartoon characters to get married ?

Piuio
Piuio

Ask yourself if you'd make negative comments if this story were about a male and female muppet getting married. I'd suspect u'd think it was cute. How about a black and white muppet getting married? U'd prob not comment for fear of looking racist. Come on, this has nothing to do with sex. It's about teaching tolerance and differences in our society.

Fredrick Lamar Mayes
Fredrick Lamar Mayes

The arguments people are making have nothing to do with tolerance or indifference. What people are getting at is by trying to use Kids television programming for a particular political type agenda is ridiculous. My opinion is if you want to teach them that the lesbian or gay lifestyle is okay, then sit them down and make them watch shows on Logos and talk to them that way. I am sorry but using kids programming, that is designed for 3-4 year olds, as a political stepping stone is asinine.

Rui Manuel
Rui Manuel

It's amazing as we were always confronted to heterosexual models, and don't even realized it, since we were born. I believe this subject is of utmost importance, specially right now. Ever since Bert and Ernie have been portrayed as a gay couple in disguise, but back then that would be illegal, just watch this... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... And I agree, on the show there will be no sexual portrait on Sesame Street, it's all about human relations. Sesame Workshop must assume that ever since they were portraying them as a homosexual relationship, and I believe with the best intentions...

Jab35s
Jab35s

My argument has nothing to do with politics. Or Bert and Ernie and whether or not they are gay. They are puppets. My point is that when Ken and Barbie got married(I think they did?) nobody made hate filled comments. There is nothing wrong with 2 men getting married. Maybe people aren't ready to see this lifestyle on a children's program. But ya gotta ask yourself why. What harmful things could come of it? I really only can compare it to seeing black and white people marrying in real life and on tv to get my point across. Everyone saw that as wrong and harmful. Anyways, progress is slow and that's fine. We gotta realize though that this has nothing to do with Bert and Ernie.

Ben
Ben

If I recall correctly, they pretty much just bicker and annoy each other... so it kind of sounds like they already are married.

reeblite
reeblite

really?  does sex have to be brought into everything?  leave bert and ernie alone.  agree with ibivi.

ibivi
ibivi

Oh stop!  Stop trying to engage in social engineering.  Gay marriage is for adults.  Children can sort out their sexual identiity as they mature.

Melanie Bremner
Melanie Bremner

yes, this is pretty pathetic. People don't have better things to do than try to tarnish a kids puppet show? 3 and 4 years old do not need to know or care to understand about sexuality. Bert and Ernie are friends. They sleep in their own beds, and are just puppets! They help kids learn to sing, count and share. That simple. Don't try to complicate things and bring adult perspectives into a child's playground. Please! Don't wreck this for my children.

Songbyrd76
Songbyrd76

I love Sesame Street, I love Bert & Ernie and I love my gay friends and family, I am a mother of 5 children all bred on Sesame Street & I do not wish to see Bert & Ernie get married, theirs is the ultimate Bro-mance, the Odd Couple extrodinaire.....I've never seen them as gay lovers or partners & while I commend the sense of equality & tolerance & believe we should teach our children such noble lessons - I do not wish to introduce my pre-school aged child to sexual orientation on any level gay or straight! 

realistic
realistic

unless specified in their characters imaginary or not human characters dont have race religious or sexual caracteristicts can 2 farm animals living together for years be considered gay the whole discussion is a waste of time also its up to sesamee street to decide what there characters are going to be

Erik Gonsalves
Erik Gonsalves

Wow this is like a bad Girls gone Wild episode instead naming it "Gays Gone Wild"! I'm all for equal opportunity but attempting to label Bert and Ernie (which are the characters I loved most on Sesame Street) as gay and then forcing them to be maried on the show is just to much for me to sit back at watch. Where do I sign up to petition this ridiculous representation of idealism?

Mike Pesole
Mike Pesole

I'm for gay rights. To me gay rights are the same as human rights, but I'm sorry I really feel that Bert and Ernie are being used as political scapegoats here. Sorry.

Rui Manuel
Rui Manuel

hello Mike, what are political scapegoats if not people's scapegoats... 

Epac
Epac

I know Sesame Street is SUPPOSED to be Manhattan, but was that ever confirmed? I agree it doesn't look like Texas or Shanghai but...well, someone should make sure it's a place where gay marriage is legal (before E& B get their hopes up).

Danhattan Bojo
Danhattan Bojo

It's Harlem, according to the JIm Henson's Fantastic World exhibit at the Museum of the Moving Image.

 However there was a street dedicated as 123 Sesame Street at 64th and Broadway but it was temporary.

Guest
Guest

you've got to be kidding me...

MH
MH

This is absolutely ridiculous!! Discussion or depictions of sexuality do not belong in shows for children.

Hexinduction
Hexinduction

Puppets don't get older. Bert and Ernie aren't 60 year old puppets now. They are just puppets now. The eternal now. So I don't think it's fair to say that they have been living together for 40 years. I am pretty sure Bart Simpson isn't 32 par example...

NYHusker
NYHusker

Your comment that people aren't avid aficionados of Sesame Street ignores the fact that many of us have children, whom ARE avid watchers, and I for one, don't need to introduce this type of discussion at 3 or 4 yrs old.  But just keep on pretending that your rabid desire for universal acceptance has zero negative consequences!

Rui Manuel
Rui Manuel

super article! @35a9f0cb2716518b9d431eab001f9896:disqus , have you noticed that our 3 or 4 year old children are introduced to the same kind of discussions - they portray heterosexual relationships too. But I bet that is of no problem to you...

chkyrslf
chkyrslf

I'm going to take a wild guess and say that you are from Staten Island.

NYHusker
NYHusker

Not at all...but I also don't think my 3-4 yr old child has the mental capacity to understand an adult concept (sexuality, whether gay or straight) and further, it is not up to a children's show, to teach such concepts.  Let the show be about singing and learning to count, and spell.  Not about Gay marriage.

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