Bert and Ernie have been an integral part of the TV show "Sesame Street" since its start in 1969, showing children the essence of being close and supporting friends no matter how different you are. But the nature of friendship between the serious Bert and the much more light-hearted Bernie was a matter of speculation among some adult fans of the show.
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An interview former Sesame Street writer Mark Saltzman gave to Queerty this Sunday has now fanned the flames. Saltzman, who joined the show as a writer in 1984, noted that he wrote the Bert and Ernie episodes as though the two were a gay couple, making them a reflection of his own same-sex relationship at that time.
“I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert and Ernie, they were [lovers]. I didn’t have any other way to contextualize them,” he said.
He noted that he saw in them the same chemistry he saw in his relationship with film editor Arnold Glassman – Saltzman was Ernie and Glassman was Bert. “I don’t think I’d know how else to write them, but as a loving couple,” Saltzman said.
However, "Sesame Street" put an end to the discussion by noting that Ernie and Bert are just “best friends” in an official statement released on Twitter this Wednesday. The characters were created primarily to “teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves,” it 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 statement said.
Please see our statement below regarding Bert and Ernie. pic.twitter.com/6r2j0XrKYu— Sesame Workshop (@SesameWorkshop) September 18, 2018
Frank Oz, a puppeteer for the show who also in charge of moving Bert, also denied that there is a homosexual relationship between two characters. “It's fine that he feels they are,” he told TMZ. “They're not, of course. But why that question? Does it really matter? Why the need to define people as only gay? There's much more to a human being than just straightness or gayness.”
"Sesame Street" has run for more than 49 years, making it the longest-running children TV show in history. With 4,256 episodes being produced by 2018, it has won 167 Emmy Awards for Best Children's TV show.