Employing Sesame Street's Bert and Ernie to Sell Gay Marriage

The New Yorker cover this week features a drawing of Sesame Street's Bert and Ernie cuddling on a couch while watching a TV featuring a picture of the Supreme Court.


Suggesting that Bert and Ernie are gay lovers is absurd. But what's even sillier is the notion that the decision on DOMA and California's Proposition 8 has fundamentally altered the political landscape and that state legislatures are going to rush ahead and pass laws that allow gay marriage.

There may be 6-8 more states that will probably vote to allow gay marriage. But for the rest, it is unlikely that a vote will be taken on the issue any time soon. Gays can't win at the state level. which is why they are seeking to short-circuit the democratic process and get the Supreme Court to do their leg work for them.

But hey! Let's use children's characters to make gay marriage all warm and fuzzy! After all, who can argue with Bert and Ernie?

ABC News:

“It’s amazing to witness how attitudes on gay rights have evolved in my lifetime,” Hunter said, as posted on the New Yorker’s website. “This is great for our kids, a moment we can all celebrate.”

There have long been rumors about the nature of Bert and Ernie’s relationship.

When same-sex marriage was legalized in the state of New York in July 2011, an online petition urged the fictional characters to tie the knot.

The petition gained so much buzz that the Children’s Television Workshop, which produces “Sesame Street,” released a statement saying that 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,” the 2011 statement said. “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 magazine refused an interview request but released a statement reading, “The New Yorker thinks the cover speaks for itself.”

“Sesame Street” producers have not commented on the cover, but the image drew a range of reactions online.

The online magazine Slate wrote, “it’s is a terrible way to commemorate a major civil-rights victory for gay and lesbian couples,” mirroring a number of media outlets that noted the production company’s repeated denials that the puppet buddies are intended to be seen as a gay couple.

Not all reaction was negative. The Huffington Post called the New Yorker cover “one of its most awesome covers of all time,” while others reported that the image has in fact been floating around the Web for more than a year.

I don't think this sexualizes the characters. After all, they're only cuddling. And it's doubtful that children would understand the subtext of the cartoon, even if they saw it. The issue here is silliness: using iconic children's characters to sell the notion of gay marriage when the characters are, for all intents and purposes, asexual. The image is forced and hardly performs a service in support of gay marriage. It only makes some social conservatives hysterical  and forces others to question the seriousness with which some liberals take the issue.

A "major civil rights victory"? More like a punt. And Bert and Ernie are not going to convince any legislators at the state level that their same-sex relationship should result in a marriage where they live happily ever after.