A longtime Sesame Street writer has addressed decades-old speculation as to whether two of the show’s most beloved characters, Bert and Ernie, are a same-sex couple.
Script and songwriter Mark Saltzman revealed in an interview published on Sunday that he had written Bert and Ernie as lovers.
“I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert and Ernie, they were,” Saltzman told LGBTQ website Queerty.
Saltzman, a 15-year writer who began his career with the educational show in 1984, said that friends of his would often refer to him and his partner at the time, movie editor Arnold Glassman, as Bert and Ernie.
“I didn’t have any other way to contextualize them,” Saltzman said of the Muppets. “The other thing was, more than one person referred to Arnie and I as ‘Bert and Ernie.’
Saltzman wasn’t “out” to his professional colleagues when he joined Sesame Street, but eventually came out during his time with show.
“I can remember pitching to the education department, the gatekeepers of the curriculum, gay content, just to get it off my conscience,” the writer told Queerty. “And I can remember being stonewalled in a way that it made me think it was a lost cause. My activism isn’t a hit-the-streets variety, and what Sesame Street was doing racially, you certainly don’t want to denounce it.”
“I would have liked to have been the first writer to do the ‘two mommy’ episode. I don’t know if they’ve ever gotten to it. I’m thinking of the Bert and Ernie New Yorker cover,” Saltzman said.
Saltzman was referring the 2013 cover of the New Yorker that featured Bert and Ernie, who have long since been an icon in the LGBTQ community, on the cover in recognition of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriages.
Saltzman said his personal life took on a Bert-and-Ernie kind of relationship.
“I was Ernie. I look more Bert-ish,”the writer said. “And Arnie as a film editor—if you thought of Bert with a job in the world, wouldn’t that be perfect? Bert with his paper clips and organization?
“And I was the jokester,” Saltzman said adding that he didn’t “think I’d know how else to write them, but as a loving couple.”
In an email to Global News, the educational show reaffirmed that Bert and Ernie are “best friends” and nothing more.
“As we have always 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,” the show said. “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.”
Sesame Street and its founder, Jim Henson, have long said that Bert and Ernie have been nothing more than just puppets.
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