Despite what you and everyone else might think, Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie aren’t gay, the people behind the show said Thursday in response to an online push for the two puppets to marry.
“Bert and Ernie are best friends,” the Sesame Workshop, the non-profit group responsible for the show, said in a Facebook message. “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 a sexual orientation.”
The statement comes after Change.org posted a petition online last week asking the show to out Bert and Ernie and to have the iconic puppets wed in a move the group says would teach kids tolerance toward gays and lesbians. As of Thursday afternoon, shortly after the Sesame Workshop issued its statement, the petition had nearly 5,500 signatures.
A number of people have already weighed in on Sesame Street’s Facebook page questioning the show’s claim that Muppets are neither gay nor straight.
“It just seems to me that you can't say puppets don't have a sexual orientation when there have been plenty of cases of hetero courtship on Sesame Street over the years,” one comment read.
Here at Slate, we can think of at least two prime examples of such Muppet heterosexuality: 1) Miss Piggy’s pursuit of Kermit and 2) Humphrey and Ingrid who somehow managed to produce Baby Natasha.
Take to the comments to let us know what other examples we missed.
In the meantime, here’s the text of the Change.org petition, which also asks for the addition of a transgender character:
In this horrific age of LGBT kids taking their own lives, they need to know that they ARE BEAUTIFUL and their lives are worth living. Aside from those that are committing suicide, the bullies that facilitate these tragedies need to learn that homophobia is NOT okay. They need to know that acceptance of their fellow human beings would indeed plant a seed of peace that will reverberate throughout the world. We are not asking that Sesame Street do anything crude or disrespectful. Only that they allow Bert & Ernie to marry or even add a transgender character to the show. It can be done in a tasteful way. Let us teach tolerance of those that are different. Let Sesame Street and PBS Kids be a big part in saving many worthy lives.