A Former Writer Outed Bert And Ernie So Sesame Workshop Is Pissed

3 min

We’re all familiar with Sesame Street, and the wonderful cast of Muppets teaching us about life and love. We’re less familiar with the people behind the scenes. I don’t mean the puppeteers—I mean the writers who gave the puppeteers something to do. Mark Saltzman wrote for Sesame Street for 15 years. He also dated and lived with a famous editor Arnold Glassman. Saltzman’s heyday on the show was in the 80s and 90s, when being gay was not something you could talk very openly about.

In a new interview with LGBTQ-focused publication Queerty, Saltman admitted something that a lot of people have always suspected: Bert and Ernie are not roommates. They’re gay. Interviewer David Reddish asked if that’s how the writers thought of the two muppets and this was his response:

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?” 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 & I as “Bert & Ernie.”

He added that he thinks of himself as an “Ernie” while Arnie was more of a “Bert.” It was easy to channel their own dynamic at home into the characters.

“So I don’t think I’d know how else to write them, but as a loving couple,” he added. None of this is new. It’s been hinted at forever. In fact, when gay marriage was legalized in 2013, Bert and Ernie were featured on the cover of The New Yorker:

The Internet is feeling extremely vindicated:

But there’s a snafu. Sesame Workshop has come out with an official statement saying that Bert and Ernie are not gay. They’re puppets. They have no sexual orientation:

And Frank Oz, master puppeteer and director of the Muppets, also contested the idea that the guys are gay. He also said it doesn’t matter, but they’re still not gay.

Oz is arguing with people in the comments about why Bert and Ernie aren’t gay, and he does admit that queer representation is important:

But a lot of people are pointing out that plenty of Muppets go through serious stuff regarding romance and sexuality, so it doesn’t make sense that being queer is outside the realm of possibility:

Maybe Frank Oz is Bert and Ernie’s creator, but they’ve both grown to be important to way more people in a completely different way. Sometimes dads just need to read the signs.