[Ed. Note: Every Tuesday, we highlight an event, figure or tidbit of gay culture. Topics will range from the Stonewall Riots to Bea Arthur. Harvey Milk to the etymology of “fag.” Personally, just about all of these fall under “Everybody Should Know” for us. Bea included. This week's EGSK is late, making me the first person on the staff to not meet a deadline. This is just the sort of thing I want my staff to see me doing.]
Bert and Ernie are one of twelve Muppets that Jim Henson developed for the now 40 year-old television series Sesame Street. Though only briefly appearing in the pilot episode, the duo's segment tested best in focus groups and it became immediately apparent that the show should heavily feature them as stars. Bert and Ernie made their television debut on November 10, 1969.
They've been paving the way for homosexuals ever since.
That Bert and Ernie are in a long-term, committed gay relationship is proven and well known, or as Sesame Street's PR people put it, "Bert and Ernie... do not portray a gay couple, and there are no plans for them to do so in the future." Mere semantics.
Let's discuss the facts. These two "single" men are living together in an apartment on Sesame Street. Bert and Ernie sleep in separate twin beds, but these are located in the SAME ROOM. It is worth noting that not once has either complained about how small their mattresses are. Presumably, this is because the beds are arranged such that they can easily be pushed together to form a queen(s)-sized bed when the cameras stop rolling.
Even if these two guys are simply straight best friends that just haven't found the perfect woman, why are they spending all of their free time together? Fishing trips and vacations to Egypt? C'mon. Lovers.
Also, why would two heterosexual men choose to live together on Sesame Street of all places? Though we are never told just how to get to Sesame Street, we do know that it is somewhere in New York City. If you're on a non-numbered street in Manhattan and you see an establishment called The Furry Arms (a "hotel"), you're probably in The Village. Spend some time observing the indie guys who walk into the local thrift store Finders Keepers, and you'll see what I mean.
Sesame Street has exactly zero to offer straight men.
Say what they will, but writers haven't exactly kept Bert and Ernie's sketches free from [not-so-] subtleties. Is there no reason why there is an oil portrait of Bert and Ernie in their living room?
...and in their bedroom?
No, seriously, let's talk about this because this is bothering me and I think it's important. These are not photographs, nor are they pencil or chalk. These are PAINTED portraits. Using rates around my home in Patchogue, NY, this would have cost at least $2000 (I'm not even going to go into the fact that they're framed, too). So you mean to tell me that these two completely platonic heterosexual men spent over $2000 to have a portrait painted of them... and then commissioned ANOTHER for $2000 more? Sure. Normal guy stuff.
The rest of the home decor doesn't exactly keep the two puppets closeted, either. So many lamps and armchairs! I'm also sure that most straight men don't even know what valances are let alone would think to feature them on their windows. Two breeder men living together would also not keep the apartment that clean. Let's be honest.
I truly don't know how this is ambiguous for some, especially those in the community. Even if one were to successfully refute all of the things I've mentioned above, the sheer abundance of bananas in Bert and Ernie skits should be enough to realize that they are meant to be gay men:
I propose we celebrate the presence of these openly (as far as those lace curtains and I are concerned) gay characters on our TV screens. Homosexuals were not exactly popular on basic cable at the time, but Bert and Ernie fabulously broke the heteronormative mold. I consider them wholly responsible for the success of Will & Grace and Kurt on Glee. They are the Jackie Robinsons of gays in mainstream media, and it should be recognized that as a result were made to endure the same intolerance and adversity as all other social pioneers. Said Rev. Joseph Chambers in one of his radio shows in 1994:
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.
I agree, but contextually he was making his case to have the characters banned. Haha, all kidding aside, if they've pissed off some right-wingers then we should be honoring them gay OR straight. Good for them.