fictional characters Bert & Ernie Are Gay (and Why That's OK)  

Joanne Phillips
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Ever since the debut of Sesame Street in 1969, one mystery has befuddled and bemused TV audiences around the world. That question is: If everyone on Sesame Street is so friendly, why won't they let Oscar live with them in one of the apartments instead of outside in a trash can? Oh, and also: are Bert and Ernie gay?

Many have long suspected that these two beloved Sesame Street characters are, in fact, undercover Muppet lovers. Some people think they might be brothers, or just friends, but the evidence shows otherwise. Urban legend even holds that the characters were initially meant to give children a model for an everyday gay couple. But the Children's Television Workshop refuses to confirm or deny the implication (stating that they are puppets, and therefore don't have a sexual orientation), and thus we've all been left to wonder.

Until now. The signs are all there, and others are beginning to take notice: A petition on the website asked PBS and the Children's Television Network to get Bert and Ernie out of the closet - and hold a gay wedding for them. Sesame Street Workshop responded, in 2011, that everyone's favorite puppet couple are just friends. However, the cover of the New Yorker in July 2013 suggested otherwise. The cover, created by Jack Hunter, depicts Bert & Ernie snuggling on the couch, watching the SCOTUS decision about gay marriage. 

Those behind the movement believe that if Bert and Ernie marry, children might learn to be more tolerant and accepting of their gay peers, who in turn will feel better about themselves. Check out our list of reasons why Bert & Ernie are gay below, and be sure to share your thoughts in the comment section. 

Bert's Tweet (and Other "Official" Evidence Throughout the Ages)

In June of 2010, Bert took to the 'Sesame Street' Twitter account and sent out a Tweet that got everyone's attention.

What seemed like an unremarkable comment quickly became something much, much more - offering potential proof that Bert, at least, was gay. What did he say?

Casual comment, right? Not for some people, who speculated that the word 'mo' was a slang term for "homosexual." And the timing of the Tweet was also questioned: Some gay bloggers noted that several U.S. cities were hosting Gay Pride celebrations.

Little hints like this have been dropped throughout the characters' lives, and have always been little healthy nudges towards the never-ending rumors about the puppets' sexualities.

I mean, just look at these book covers.

Who did they think they were fooling?...

Sesame Street Magazine cover, October 1977

Fairyland? Really?
Sesame Street Magazine cover, October 1980

Okay, now they're not even trying anymore
"Love" a 1980 Sesame Street album about Love

This was, for a while, not so much a rumor, but something so blatant, that the Christian Right actually went after them.

"Bert and Ernie are two grown men sharing a house and a bedroom. They share clothes, eat and cook together and have blatantly effeminate characteristics. In one show Bert teaches Ernie how to sew. In another they tend plants together. If this isn't meant to represent a homosexual union, I can't imagine what it's supposed to represent." -- Reverend Joseph Chambers, 1994

If you're pissing off the Christian right with your characters, you know they can't be part of a "traditional" lifestyle. And really, there's nothing wrong with that. Why would anyone be against making strides towards making f*ture generations more tolerant?

Their Bathing Habits

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While I've never seen Bert and Ernie actually in the bathtub together, I do remember one instance where Ernie played a piano as Bert was in the tub, singing (this was on an old Muppet Sing-Along record).

Ernie obviously has no problem with several people joining him in his "tubby", either.

Also, how many straight American males do you know that would casually bathe with and around their male friends?

Obviously his Rubber Duckie takes priority, but in at least one skit, Ernie's joined in the tub by Oscar the Grouch, The Count and Kermit the Frog, among others. Bert is suspiciously absent until the end of the skit, when he knocks on the door and seems surprised. Wouldn't you? Your roomie (wink wink) has just turned your bathroom into a Muppet bath house!
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Their Couple-y Wall Photos

Ernie and Bert were virtually the only Muppets to appear in the Sesame Street pilot episode, which was screen tested to a number of families in July 1969.

According to Sesame Street's official PR, "Bert and Ernie are best friends... they were created to teach preschoolers that people can be friends with those who are very different from themselves".

But isn't that exactly what an out-of-the-closet Bert and Ernie would do?

Also, if these two aren't supposed to be able to have romantic feelings "because they're puppets", then how/why do Kermit/Miss Piggy exist?

They never outright said that they are not gay. And this is for a reason. Their wall photos are another solid example of their possible homosexuality.

Sure, you share an apartment with a same-sex friend - but do you have framed photos of the two of you together adorning the walls? Maybe, if you took like a really cool hiking trip to Colorado or went moose hunting in Canada or whatever. But what about an actual portrait-style photo?

Only couples (and hipsters) do this.

Bert and Ernie have one. In fact, they may have two: In various 'Sesame Street' episodes, a (beautifully and tastefully) framed photo of Bert and Ernie is clearly shown in the living room (over the table lamp) and in the bedroom (remember, the one they share?) over the lamp and nightstand. So they can be the last thing they see when they go to bed.

All That Singing

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Bert and Ernie sing together. A lot. Not like air guitar, karaoke, American-Idol-reject kind of singing, either.

No, their songs are full-out productions - dare I tunes? These two could easily cross over to 'Glee' and join the Warblers (you listening, Ryan Murphy?). While this isn't a lock, it certainly suggests that this pair might (again, might, stop over-thinking this) be a gay couple.

"La, La, La. La. LOVE!"

Their Perfect Housekeeping Habits

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Anyone want to argue that Bert and Ernie aren't excellent housekeepers? Didn't think so.

Their basement apartment is always impeccable and, to be honest, very tastefully decorated (though we'd totally replace that woefully outdated wallpaper in the kitchen).

No video games lying around, no pizza boxes strewn haphazardly on the table or floor. No pet hair, despite multiple visits from really hairy Muppets (we're talking to you, Cookie Monster). Maybe they have a housekeeper, maybe they don't.

Maybe they're just neat freaks or maybe, as award winning novelist Kurt Andersen has said:

"Bert and Ernie conduct themselves in the same loving, discreet way that millions of gay men, women and hand puppets do. They do their jobs well and live a splendidly settled life together in an impeccably decorated cabinet."
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They Doth Protest Too Much

The debate about whether Bert and Ernie are, in fact, a happy, same-sex couple has raged for more than a decade - and each time it comes up (at least in the mainstream), the Children's Television Workshop responds. In 1993, CTW issued an official statement on the matter:

"Bert and Ernie, who've been on Sesame Street for 25 years, do not portray a gay couple, and there are no plans for them to do so in the f*ture. They are puppets, not humans. Like all the Muppets created for Sesame Street, they were designed to help educate preschoolers. Bert and Ernie are characters who help demonstrate to children that despite their differences, they can be good friends."

Was this really necessary? Most of us know, but for those who don't, they are PUPPETS. They are NOT REAL. The CTW also threatened a lawsuit against the director of the 2002 short film spoof 'Ernest and Bertram.' Not familiar with this doc short? It's about two male puppets, ERNest and BERTram (ahem) who are in love. It ends badly. Do not ever show this to your children. It will shatter them - and it might seriously disturb you, too. But again, it's a spoof - CTW sure didn't see it that way. Me thinks they do protest...too much.

Sure, it's not like Ernie and Bert are hosting dinner parties with Tinky Winky, Peppermint Patty and SpongeBob (yeah, I know, that's a different list and will require a great deal of investigation), but the fact that so much jabbering goes on every time the "Are Bert and Ernie Gay?" question comes up, it's beginning to look a little suspicious, don't you think?

And the best part is that if they DID come out, our kids and our kids' kids just might be that much more tolerant.

They Wear Snappy Clothing

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For proof that Bert and Ernie are gay, let's examine their clothing.

Yes, it may be stereotyping (forgive me), but it's difficult NOT to notice that these two are always impeccably dressed.

No wrinkles - and honestly, their shirts look like they've been ironed and starched (even Bert's white turtleneck - wait, turtleneck?!?). And yes, there are no horribly slobby Muppets, right? Wait: Oscar the Grouch, Grover, Cookie Monster... yes there are!

And while it is a stereotype that straight people simply do not put this much care into their appearance, it's also one that has proven (in my experience) to ring quite true.

So, at the very least we can agree that their clothing makes them at least slightly metrosexual in the Sesame Street universe.

And are those rainbow stripes? The evidence just seems to pile up for the "gay" argument.

Their Sleeping Arrangements

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One of the strongest arguments that Bert and Ernie are indeed way more than just friendly, same-sex roommates is the nature of their living arrangements.

For more than three decades, this pair has cohabitated - and while that's probably a bit unusual, it's not unheard of. That being said, let's also mention that Bert and Ernie share a bedroom. They don't sleep in the same bed, no no - they have separate twin beds - but really?

After all this time, can they not afford a larger apartment with more bedrooms (and more closets for them to come out of store their clothes)?

So, either way you want to look at it, the indisputable facts point toward Bert and Ernie being closeted puppets that can never come out because of the corporations that pay their bills who are too scared to add some "color" to their programming.

Once our society gets passed these hang-ups and we can have a a mainstream children's character be part of the LGBT community, the world really might be a better place.

Would you be for or against Bert and Ernie coming out, or even, Bert and Ernie getting married? Let me know in the comments!