Who hasn’t heard that Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street might be more than just friends? That scenario has been going around for years now, without any truth behind it.
Recently, however, a big push for a gay marriage between the two popular characters is taking place online. Change.org has a petition called “Let Bert & Ernie Get Married On Sesame Street”. In just 6 days, the petition has already garnished has over 900 signatures.
The makers of the petition say that Bert and Ernie tying the knot would send a good message to kids who are struggling with being bullied in school for being gay: “We are not asking that Sesame Street do anything crude or disrespectful. It can be done in a tasteful way. Let us teach tolerance of those that are different.”
The NY Daily News reports that the producers of Sesame Street say no plans are in the works for a gay wedding to ever happen. They maintain that Bert and Ernie have a platonic yet very close relationship:
“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 the Sesame Street Muppets … possess many human traits and characteristics, they have no sexual orientation.”
On one hand while a gay marriage between the two might teach kids that there is nothing wrong with homosexuality, Bert and Ernie living together as best friends does teach kids about certain child-centered situations, namely conflict resolution, personal differences, and learning how to get along with others who are unlike you. These life lessons are prime for the target audience of preschoolers. Do we need to sexualize muppets by bringing their sexual preference to the forefront? Aren’t preschool concerns like sharing and making friends more important to three-year-olds?
On the other hand, seeing a gay, married couple on their favorite television show certainly sends a powerful yet unassuming message to children that being gay is OK and in fact, normal. Certainly many kids who already watch the show are being raised by gay parents and seeing their parents represented would be a reassuring factor. If we are to ultimately rise above and obliterate bullying due to sexual preference, we need to make it as mainstream and normal as possible in our everyday world.
While many will debate the presence of gay characters on a preschool television show, I’m not sure it will happen any time soon, simply because I don’t think the majority of Americans (not to mention sponsors) are ready to make gay marriage a mainstream issue, or even a non-issue. Isn’t that what it should be? A non-issue, like I have green eyes and I’m right-handed, you have brown eyes and are left-handed, big deal…or in other words, just one characteristic out of hundreds that any person might have.
What do you think? Do you think Bert and Ernie should get married? Should Sesame Street create a new set of gay or transgender characters? Or should sexuality stay out of preschool programming altogether?