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Bert and Ernie Come Out in the New Yorker

5:52 pm - 06/28/2013


No, not even Muppets are spared in our culture war. Above is the cover of the new issue of The New Yorker.

“It’s amazing to witness how attitudes on gay rights have evolved in my lifetime,” said Jack Hunter, the artist behind the cover. “This is great for our kids, a moment we can all celebrate.”

Then again, in response to an 2011 online petition calling for Bert and Ernie to tie the knot, the Sesame Workshop’s Facebook page offered this statement:

“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 they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics…they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation.”

From nymag.com: Like all things, it has elicited strong and wildly varied reactions. BuzzFeed and the Huffington Post both call the cover "amazing." But June Thomas at Slate says it's "a terrible way to commemorate a major civil-rights victory for gay and lesbian couples," because Bert and Ernie are not actually gay.

"Ernest & Bertram" -- a 2002 short film by Peter Spears. Some people feel the New Yorker cover is based on this short.
Youtube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8TeNdsoCIgc

Flavorwire's Tyler Coates contends that the magazine is "belittling the decades-long — hell, millennia-long — fight for equal rights by needlessly sexualizing a pair of puppets." Coates suggests that The New Yorker could have used a photo of an "actual gay and lesbian couple," perhaps even of Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer, the lesbian couple at the center of the DOMA case. Not only does The New Yorker not put photos of actual people on its covers, but we think this suggestion misses the point.

You could replace Bert and Ernie with a drawing of a famous real-life gay couple, or even an anonymous gay couple whose sexuality is communicated to the reader. But to have a closeted gay couple lends the image deeper meaning: In an intimate moment in the privacy of their home, away from the public eye, they feel heartened that society is finally coming around to accepting them for who they are.

Because of the inherent nature of closetedness, there aren't many instantly recognizable closeted gay couples out there. Bert and Ernie — as silly as it is to sexualize them — happen to be one of them. That, to us, is why they're on the cover, and why it works.



Source 1: http://www.humanevents.com/2013/06/28/bert-and-ernie-come-out-in-new-yorker/
WARNING: Do NOT read the comments in the first source.
Source 2: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/06/bert-ernie-new-yorker-cover-gay-doma.html
policraticus 29th-Jun-2013 02:26 am (UTC)
You know. I don't even.

Why do we have to project our adult obsessions onto a children's show? Who is next?

pooh and piglet photo: pooh-and-piglet pooh-and-piglet.jpg
sunhawk 29th-Jun-2013 03:18 am (UTC)
Uh Sesame Street tackles adult issues fairly often, you must have missed the recent news about them preparing material to help kids deal with having an incarcerated parent. But don't mind me, carry on with your "won't someone think of the children!" / "is nothing sacred?!" routine.
policraticus 29th-Jun-2013 03:35 am (UTC)
Why do pre-schoolers have to think about sex? This isn't about sacredness, it is about age appropriateness. Not all adult issues translate for children. People, like Mr. Hooper, die. Parents go to jail, rarely, but they do. Parents get divorced. This all can profoundly effect a child's life. What and how adults arrange their sexual lives is not, in my opinion, be something a 4 or 5 year old should have to process. Like, genocide, or abortion, or Quantitative Easing. Sorry. Call me old fashioned, but it is just none of their business.
blunder_buss 29th-Jun-2013 03:40 am (UTC)
It ISN'T about sex. It's about RELATIONSHIPS. There's goddamn billions of kids shows that show mommy and daddy being married, yet somehow sex doesn't come into that equation, despite the fact that they have kids and may make the occasional joke that only a parent would get.

And how exactly is divorce an adult issue that kids can understand, but two men getting married isn't? How is that somehow so much harder to understand?
policraticus 29th-Jun-2013 03:49 am (UTC)
It was already about a relationship, a close friendship between two very different characters, who can love and esteem one another without any particular sexual subtext.
sunhawk 29th-Jun-2013 03:48 am (UTC)
Who is having sex? Are you aware there have been straight married couples on Sesame Street before and -shockingly I know - never once did they behave in any way that went beyond a G rating. Why do you assume that a gay couple would behave any different? Having LGBTQ characters is not about sex, it's about self identity and having role models in the media that you can relate to and allowing them to be seen with their partner being happy and going about their day doing fairly ho hum stuff like cuddling to watch TV together. Being happy with someone and sharing your time with them are things that everyone should get to enjoy and see as something that will happen in their life.
policraticus 29th-Jun-2013 03:52 am (UTC)
I don't really care about having LGBTQ characters on Sesame Street. I care about the fact that Bert and Ernie somehow have to be gay. I'd like there to be two characters who are close friends who can love and esteem one another without having sex with each other. Like Big Bird and Snuffleupagus, for example.
the_siobhan 29th-Jun-2013 03:52 am (UTC)
Sooooooooooooo, people with children should never live with their spouse, because children shouldn't be exposed to how their parents arrange their sexual lives. Am I understanding you correctly?
policraticus 29th-Jun-2013 03:53 am (UTC)
No. You are not understanding me correctly.
naroclie 29th-Jun-2013 05:08 am (UTC)
Nobody here is talking about sex except you.
ebay313 29th-Jun-2013 06:39 am (UTC)
Parents go to jail, rarely, but they do. Parents get divorced. This all can profoundly effect a child's life.

And sometimes, parents are gay.
roseofjuly 3rd-Jul-2013 05:52 am (UTC)
I don't think it's rare that parents go to jail.
nonnycat 29th-Jun-2013 08:35 am (UTC)
... so, my six year old niece must have totally been thinking about sex when she wrote her best friend (another girl) a letter saying that she was in love with her. (She unfortunately lost said best friend over this because the mom freaked out. Whereas I have seen this sorta thing multitudes of times between a little boy and a little girl and people go "awww cute".)

Fuck you and people like you who have made shit so difficult for people like myself and my niece because you think gay anything is about sex. Fuck you.
lied_ohne_worte 29th-Jun-2013 10:26 am (UTC)
You are the only one who brought up sex. The New Yorker certainly didn't.

That and how adults arrange their sexual lives is not, in my opinion, be something a 4 or 5 year old should have to process.

Again: Homosexuality != sex. Gay people are gay even when they are not having sex with a person of the same gender. If you think that homosexual people are all about sex, the same should apply to heterosexuals. Or is sex OK as long as it's a man and woman in the missionary position, but noting else?

And finally: Children already deal with (disregarding your weird obsession with gay sex) the way adults arrange their lives all the time. They see couples in their family and social circle... including gay couples, because gay people exist whether you'd like them to or not.

Do you really think a four-year-old cannot "process" the fact that two adults of the same gender love each other and live together? I'm reasonable sure that a child who is told that his or her two uncles are a couple will not start to try and find out how they are having sex, because children don't care. It's only adults who start clutching pearls and fantasising over what other adults do in a consenting way in their own homes.

Also, homosexuality, genocide and abortion, really?
violetrose 29th-Jun-2013 12:03 pm (UTC)
You're the one doing the sexualising. No one is talking about sex. They're talking about a kid's show that has a possible gay couple.
wrestlingdog 29th-Jun-2013 02:38 pm (UTC)
Why does portraying a homosexual relationship automatically translate to sex? For that matter, why are gay relationships automatically not "age-appropriate"? Many in Sesame Street's target audience have parents or other family members who are in same-sex relationships. Does that mean their family life is inappropriate?
redstar826 29th-Jun-2013 02:43 pm (UTC)
Oh good grief. I once watched a few kindergartners, while drawing pictures of their parents, discuss whether or not boys could marry boys and girls could marry girls. They decided that they could, and then they finished their drawing and all went off and played with blocks. That was just like exposing them to genocide.

Clearly I should I have have ignored the teacher's request that they draw pictures of their families because the poor little dears can't process the ways in which adults form relationships.

hey_kayla_jay 29th-Jun-2013 03:22 pm (UTC)
Any time someone argues that kids don't need to see lgbt representation in their shows I get annoyed. There are kids out there who have same sex parents, why shouldn't they get to see that represented in their shows? Kids relate to and admire the characters in their shows and little kids with same-sex parents shouldn't be excluded.
nextdrinksonme 29th-Jun-2013 11:52 pm (UTC)
There are preschoolers with same sex parents. There are preschoolers whose classmates have same sex parents. So yeah, "there are people who are the same sex and love each other and are in relationships" is perfectly acceptable for a preschooler to know.
blunder_buss 29th-Jun-2013 03:35 am (UTC)
You do realize that in the South African version there's a muppet with HIV, right? Because Sesame Street is all about TEACHING kids about the world around them, which, shockingly, involves those 'adult obsessions'?
policraticus 29th-Jun-2013 03:47 am (UTC)
HIV isn't sexuality. It is a disease which is an equal opportunity destroyer of lives. In S.A., where HIV is decimating a generation, teaching about the disease is, it seems to me, very reasonable. But tell me, is the character a prostitute? Is the character in an abusive relationship with a man who visits prostitutes? Is he or she an IV drug user? No. Of course not. Because it isn't necessary for that part of adult life to be introduced to children as young as 4. For me sexuality should be much less important than friendship. That Burt and Ernie are true friends who love and respect each other, without any sexual expectations, is a much, much more important lesson to teach children.
blunder_buss 29th-Jun-2013 04:00 am (UTC)
So, wait.

It's okay to have a muppet to have HIV, because that's an important issue, and that can be presented to kids without the huge list of sexual, social, and political issues that come along with it.

But it's NOT okay for two male muppets to be in love, because it's not important, and absolutely cannot be seperated from the huge list of sexual, social, and political issues that come along with THAT.

Okay then. Oh, and by the way, friendship should be more important than 'sexuality' huh? Tell that to these two:



By your logic, this is introducing unnecessary sexuality to children, and inviting a massive host of issues that they simply cannot understand. And yet these two have been an item for as long as I can remember without any problem.
roseofjuly 3rd-Jul-2013 05:55 am (UTC)
You do know that HIV is not an equal opportunity destroyer of lives, right? HIV disproportionately affects some people and not others. You do also know that the majority of people get HIV through sexual intercourse?

I'm not surprised that someone straight thinks it's more important to teach kids about friendship than same-sex romantic relationships. They're equally important. Kids need to understand that same-sex relationships are normal and fine and good. And Bert and Ernie can love and respect each other without sexual expectations in either a romantic or non-romantic relationship.
meran_flash 29th-Jun-2013 05:36 am (UTC)
I was queer when I was a child you know.
roseofjuly 3rd-Jul-2013 05:49 am (UTC)
There are thousands of children who have gay parents who can now have their rights recognized across the country. Gay marriage, and the politics of the closet, aren't just "adult obsessions."
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