'Sesame Street' writer Mark Saltzman now says Bert and Ernie are "guys who love each other" but not exactly a couple
The show had pushed back after writer Mark Sultzman said he based Bert and Ernie's plot on his own same-sex relationship and considered the characters gay
Just a day after social media buzzed into uproar after the harsh denial of Sesame Street regarding the sexual nature of Bert and Ernie's relationship, writer Mark Saltzman backed off a bit from his opinion that the beloved peppet characters were gay.
Talking to the New York Times on Tuesday, Saltzman clarified that his insights on the characters' relationship was misinterpreted.
He said: “As a writer, you just bring what you know into your work. Somehow, in the uproar, that turned into Bert and Ernie being gay. There is a difference.”
He also went on to add that the show should include gay characters, but those characters should be humans, not puppets.
However, as for Bert and Ernie's deep 'connection', Sultzman didn't refute it. “They are two guys who love each other,” he said. “That’s who they are.”
It's been an interesting few days for 'Sesame Street' fans. It started off with one of the iconic show's writer holding forth that fan favorites Bert and Ernie -- who have been on the show for around half a century -- are, in fact, gay.
Of course, there has always been active speculation surrounding the topic ever since the characters started in 1969, but Sultzman confirmed the speculation, admitting that the two are very much gay as he wrote the characters based on his own same-sex relationship with film editor Arnold Glassman.
Speaking to Queerty, Sultzman - who had joined the crew in 1984 - stated clearly that the 'Sesame' duo is a reflection of his and Glossman's relationship, where he himself was Ernie, and Glassman was Bert. He also laid stress on how the two were just a gay couple, and nothing about the way they were written was about pushing an agenda.
"I remember one time that a column from The San Francisco Chronicle, a preschooler in the city turned to mom and asked, “are Bert & Ernie lovers?” And that, coming from a preschooler was fun," he shared with the outlet. "And that got passed around, and everyone had their chuckle and went back to it. And I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert & Ernie, they were. 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.'"
For those wondering what led to the speculations arising about them being gay, the two characters have shared a basement apartment at 123 Sesame Street for the last 49 years, as TMZ points out. And granted the two did sleep in separate beds, their chemistry still remains on point including playful arguments and bickering. Something that has always appealed to fans and eventually lead to the evolution of Bert and Ernie as poignant icons in the LGBTQ community.
So naturally, when Sultzman came out with his own confirmation, it was time to rejoice for every fan who deep down believed that Bert and Ernie were totally gay.
But those moments of celebration didn't last long as a spokesperson for Sesame Workshop snubbed the claims. Speaking to TMZ, they countered Sultzman, saying: "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."
Does this mean they are totally denouncing the concept of 'teaching preschoolers' about a romantic relationship between two male characters on a puppet show? It is the next part of the statement that really seems like its pushing a more anti-gay propaganda than Sultzman's alleged 'agenda.' While he does admit it was looked at as just an inquisitive child's curiosity, it wouldn't have been entirely improbable to go ahead with that concept.
But the show-authorities seem to have quite the opposite mindset. Their statement continued: "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." Wow - borderline homophobic, much?
And even though another crew member spoke on it with a much toned down the passive aggression, the fact doesn't change that people involved with crafting the show feel quite strongly about keeping Bert and Ernie straight. Frank Oz - who happens to be a longtime puppeteer for the show and has crafted some of the beloved characters himself - took to denouncing Sultzman in a much more passive manner.
He said: "It seems Mr. Mark Saltzman was asked if Bert & Ernie are gay. It's fine that he feels they are. 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."