After former Sesame Street writer Mark Saltzman confirmed that he based Bert and Ernie's relationship off of his own relationship with his partner (and Sesame Street editor) Arnold Glassman, Sesame Workshop decided to weigh in. Rather than taking the opportunity to affirm not only the work of one of their queer creators but also the decades of queer children who have seen themselves in the characters, Sesame Street doubled down on their insistence that Bert and Ernie are just "best friends." Sesame Workshop is essentially every girl who had a crush on you in high school.
"As we have always said, Bert and Ernie are best friends," reads a statement from Sesame Workshop. "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."
Please see our statement below regarding Bert and Ernie. pic.twitter.com/6r2j0XrKYu
— Sesame Workshop (@SesameWorkshop) September 18, 2018
Frank Oz, the voice of Bert and many other muppets, also weighed in on Saltzman's comments. "It seems Mr. Mark Saltzman was asked if Bert & Ernie are gay. It's fine that he feels they are. They're not, of course. But why that question? Does it really matter? Why the need to define people as only gay? There's much more to a human being than just straightness or gayness."
It seems Mr. Mark Saltzman was asked if Bert & Ernie are gay. It's fine that he feels they are. They're not, of course. But why that question? Does it really matter? Why the need to define people as only gay? There's much more to a human being than just straightness or gayness.
— Frank Oz (@TheFrankOzJam) September 18, 2018
Oz and Sesame Workshop miss the point — straightness is the default, and Bert and Ernie depicted an enduring and realistic queer relationship for decades. Bert and Ernie's relationship is a cornerstone of Sesame Street, and for decades queer people — especially children — have been able to look at these characters and see themselves represented on one of the most beloved and enduring shows of all time. In denying Bert and Ernie's relationship, Sesame Workshop has told those queer kids that they're wrong, that they don't have a place on Sesame Street, in addition to disrespecting a longtime writer who helped shape the show's legacy.