An executive on Sesame Street has offered his thoughts on the possibility that Bert and Ernie could be more than just friends, reigniting a long-running debate as the children’s television favourite celebrates its 50th anniversary.
Speaking with the Hollywood Reporter, Sesame Workshop Vice President Brown Johnson said people can classify the duo’s relationship and sexuality in whatever way they see fit.
“People can think whatever they want, you want to think they’re gay? Okay,” he said.
“You want to think they’re not gay? They’re not gay.”
Ernie & Bert’s relationship hit the news last year when former Sesame Street screenwriter Mark Saltzman said the pair’s relationship was loosely based on him and his partner, film editor Arnold Glassman.
“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?’” Saltzman told Queerty.
“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 and I as ‘Bert & Ernie’.”
‘Bert and Ernie are best friends’
Sesame Workshop responded at the time in a now-deleted tweet, refuting the claim and pointing out that the duo are merely good friends.
“As we have always said, Bert and Ernie are best friends,” the statement said.
“While they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics, they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation.
Sesame Street has taken home 189 awards at the Emmys, more than any other television series.
In 2013, to mark a landmark court victory for marriage equality in California at the time, the New Yorker published a cover depicting Bert and Ernie in a loving embrace in front of the television watching the verdict.