UPDATE 9/18/18 at 4:11 P.M. EST: Despite the former writer’s claims, Sesame Workshop released a statement saying Bert & Ernie were just 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.”
Everything you thought you knew (or didn’t know) about Bert and Ernie on Sesame Street as a child has just been confirmed by one of the show writers: They were gay.
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Their tight chemistry makes sense now…
Mark Saltzman, who joined the writing team in 1984, said he wasn’t trying to push any agenda, but the two characters’ connection was inspired by his own same-sex relationship with film editor Arnold Glassman, according to Queerty.com. Mark was Ernie, and Arnold was Bert.
If you remember, Bert & Ernie were roommates at the 123 Sesame Street apartment. They always slept in separate beds, but they also always went back and forth with each other like couples tend to do.
Saltzman, who was already with his partner before he became a Sesame Street writer, says he didn’t know else to write them, “but as a loving couple.”
Saltzman on speculation around Bert and Ernie back in the day…
I remember one time that a column from ‘The San Francisco Chronicle,’ a preschooler in the city turned to mom and asked “are Bert & Ernie lovers?” And that, coming from a preschooler was fun. And that got passed around, and everyone had their chuckle and went back to it. And I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert & Ernie, they were. I didn’t have any other way to contextualize them. The other thing was, more than one person referred to Arnie & I as “Bert & Ernie.”
Saltzman on ways Bert and Ernie’s scenes reflected his relationship…
How could it not permeate? The things that would tick off Arnie would be the things that would tick off Bert. How could it not? I will say that I would never have said to the head writer, “oh, I’m writing this, this is my partner and me.” But those two, Snuffalupagus, because he’s the sort of clinically depressed Muppet…you had characters that appealed to a gay audience. And Snuffy, this depressed person nobody can see, that’s sort of Kafka! It’s sort of gay closeted too.
The writer says his personal relationship embodied the Bert & Ernie relationship. “I wrote sketches. Arnie’s OCD would create friction with how chaotic I was. And that’s the Bert & Ernie dynamic,” he said.
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