After many years of speculation, we’ve finally received an answer. Beloved Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie are, in fact, a gay couple — at least according to one former writer.
The news comes in the wake of Mark Saltzman’s interview with Queerty, where he discussed working as a Sesame Street writer who was out in the late ’80s. He said that, while some key figures in his life were aware of his sexuality, he wasn’t out professionally until he had been working on the show for quite some time.
While talking about writing for Sesame Street, he was asked about the persistent rumors surrounding Bert and Ernie. The characters have shared an apartment and slept in separate beds for years, but the dynamic of their relationship has resonated as beyond merely “friendly” to some older, savvy viewers.
The writer basically confirmed that idea.
“I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert and Ernie, they were [a gay couple],” he said in the interview. “I didn’t have any other way to contextualize them.”
Mark even received comments that Bert and Ernie’s relationship mirrored his own. He was the partner of film editor Arnold Glassman for over 20 years prior to Arnold’s death in 2003. Mark said that many people who knew the two recognized him and “Arnie” in Bert and Ernie. He recognized himself as the chaotic Ernie, while his late partner was more like the organized, type-A Bert.
While many people loved the disclosure, others rejected it. Mark’s comments and the widespread response to them prompted Sesame Workshop and famed puppeteer Frank Oz to issue separate statements on Twitter, shutting down the idea that Bert and Ernie have sexual orientations at all.
Whether Sesame Street ever decides to acknowledge Bert and Ernie as a couple or not, there’s something wonderful about knowing this part of the heartfelt history behind the characters and knowing that love is love is love where the air is sweet.
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