Although they’re puppets, people have speculated for years that “Sesame Street” characters Bert and Ernie are more than just roommates and best friends. However, after a former writer’s comments on the matter, the minds behind the show are setting the record straight.
The debate gained new life when Mark Saltzman, a writer on the show from 1984 to 1998, spoke to Queerty in an interview where he revealed that he always thought of the characters as a “loving couple.”
Saltzman was asked by the outlet directly if the characters were gay, and he recalled reading about a child asking his mother that question. Saltzman, a gay man, said the story made him laugh.
“I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert & Ernie, they were,” he revealed noting that he drew inspiration from his relationship with film editor Arnold Glassman. “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 continued: “Because how else? That’s what I had in my life, a Bert & Ernie relationship. How could it not permeate? The things that would tick off Arnie would be the things that would tick off Bert. How could it not? I will say that I would never have said to the head writer, ‘oh, I’m writing this, this is my partner and me.’”
Although Saltzman wrote for “Sesame Street” for many years, it’s worth noting that he did not create the characters, he merely wrote for them and several others in his long career. He also never made a canonical declaration, only gave insight into his writing process. Still, many took his words as confirmation of the long-running rumor that the characters are more than just roommates.
However, to quell rampant speculation about the “Sesame Street” canon, Sesame Street Workshop, which runs the children’s show, released a tweet explaining that the characters are meant to be without sexual orientation.
“As we have always said, 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 (as most ‘Sesame Street’ Muppets do), they remain puppets, and do not have sexual orientation.”
The show is still on the air after its initial debut in 1969. As a result of its long run, Saltzman is hardly the first to address the idea that Bert and Ernie are a gay couple. However, the tweet from Sesame Street Workshop on Tuesday confirms that the answer to whether they are gay or straight is a resounding, “neither.”