It’s one of the universe’s many unanswered questions: Are Bert and Ernie, the unmarried Muppets who have shared an address on Sesame Street since 1969 (and still look amazing!), more than merely friends and roommates? To some, it may seem odd to even attempt to assign a sexual preference to a pair of children’s characters. But to countless others, who have looked to Bert and Ernie as ambiguous LGBT icons for decades, a little confirmation would be appreciated.
And that confirmation has finally arrived (sort of) in an interview with former Sesame Street writer Mark Saltzman, who began his 15-year stint writing scripts and songs for the show in 1984. Speaking with Queerty, Saltzman says, “I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert and Ernie, they were [gay]. I didn’t have any other way to contextualize them.” He says that friends would often refer to him and his late partner as having a “Bert and Ernie” dynamic.
“That’s what I had in my life, a Bert and Ernie relationship,” Saltzman says. “How could it not permeate? The things that would tick off [then-boyfriend Arnold Glassman] 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.”
Discussing The New Yorker‘s iconic 2013 cover, which featured Bert and Ernie cuddling on the couch as they watched the Supreme Court legalize gay marriage in the United States, Saltzman says it was a form of “vindication,” though he lamented that we’ve yet to see a Bert and Ernie float in a gay pride parade.
UPDATE: In response to this interview, Sesame Street has released the following statement:
UPDATE: Now, veteran Sesame Street puppeteer Frank Oz has weighed in:
Are you (at all) surprised to hear that a Sesame Street staffer wrote Bert and Ernie as a couple? Do you think it’s time the show actually addresses the pair’s relationship? Whatever’s on your mind, drop it in a comment below.