10

The sex lives of puppets

‘What sex is your children’s teddy bear?’ and other burning questions


 

The new cover of The New Yorker, showing Bert and Ernie snuggling together, clearly supports the favourable Supreme Court rulings on two landmark gay rights cases this week. It’s a hit on Twitter. So much so, that it didn’t take long for users to discover that the illustration was originally conceived a year ago for Barack Obama’s re-election victory.

 

But regardless of its origins, it has reopened the classic debate: are Bert and Ernie gay?

For decades, conservatives have claimed that having two male puppets living together in a fictitious home on Sesame Street is proof that they are not just gay, but spreading a pro-same sex message to impressionable children. In 1994 Rev. Joseph Chambers of North Carolina attempted to get them banned, claiming that, “Bert and Ernie are two grown men sharing a house and a bedroom. They share clothes, eat and cook together and have blatantly effeminate characteristics.”

And for as many years, the show’s producer, the Children’s Television Workshop, has politely refuted the criticisms: “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 a sexual orientation.” The adorable duo aren’t even anatomically correct. But that hasn’t stopped the gay rumours from being resurrected so often that Snopes.com debunked them. It isn’t just conservatives who have taken a rather disturbing interest in the sex lives of puppets. Pro-same sex marriage organizations have launched petitions demanding that the Children’s Television Network change the sexual orientation from puppet to gay.

So as Sesame Street‘s creators again explain that puppets are just that—puppets—perhaps it would be informative to read the delightfully acerbic questions that the New York Times Magazine posed on Feb. 6, 1994 to “those who ask about Bert’s and Ernie’s sexual orientation.”

1. What sex is your children’s teddy bear?

2. What is the sexual orientation of the teddy bear?

3. Do you let your child take teddy bears of the same sex to bed with him or her?

4. More important, given the role models that puppets and stuffed animals are for youngsters, do teddy bears of the same sex sleep together, by themselves, in the dark of the toy box?

5. How long have you been preoccupied with the sex lives of puppets?


 

The sex lives of puppets

  1. Appropiate that this question is at the bottom of the article…
    5. How long have you been preoccupied with the sex lives of puppets?
    A: By getting to this very point… too long.

  2. FINALLY!

  3. I’m guessing Ernie pitches.

    • Why? Because he loves his rubber ducky? What grown man/puppet bathes with a plastic duck? It is easy for people to dismiss all of the evidence that supports that the puppets on Sesame Street are child-like and the humans are adults. Do you not see that big bird is a big kid?

      • I think it’s Bert that bathes and bonds with the ducky. Be that as it may, I assure you I don’t dismiss all the evidence the puppets on Sesame Street are just puppets, not gay avatars. Far from it. My post was a deliberately grotesque and vulgar continuation of the odious topic theme. Sadly, that such a slur on two innocent and beloved characters would obtain popular currency speaks to a world with a “gay” President.

        • Are you homophobic? Your comment suggesting the President is “gay” (as though that would be a bad thing) tends to suggest that you might be. I think the truth of the situation is that a person wrote a dissertation for their PhD about the sexual orientation of Ernie and Bert. It got published. There was a lot of discussion and disagreement and here we are.
          By the way, it was DEFINITELY Ernie and the rubber ducky….”rubber ducky you’re the one. You make my bath time so much fun..”
          Bert was very serious. Ernie was a prankster, a singer and had an infectious laugh.

          • Dear healthcareinsider. You are correct on several counts. It is indeed Ernie who enjoys performing his ablutions in the company of a toy waterfowl (much as I relished the behavior of a blue plastic submarine with a slow leak well into my 20’s).

            The sexual proclivities of two puppets sounds inane enough to be a likely PhD research effort.

            And it is also the case I routinely mock and deride homosexuality on this and other message boards. (The term ‘homophobic’ is much too self-serving, as others have pointed out.I prefer my own coinage–homoanimus.)

            Finally, President Zero has been lauded in some quarters as being the first ‘gay’ President, mirroring Arkansas’s Bill Clinton being tagged as the first ‘niggah’ President.

  4. I would be more worried about a puppet that loved and worshiped guns than about two puppets that live together.

  5. Like most kids I watched Sesame Street.
    I always saw Bert and Ernie as Brothers or Best Friends, kids like me
    and that’s why they shared the same room. They were my first
    introduction to an “Odd Couple” relationship. They showed how two
    different people can still get along and be as close as family. When
    I discovered later on that they were the representations of the
    friendship of their puppeteers Jim Henson and Frank Oz I was even
    happier.

    I’ve never had any understanding of people who have this need to shoehorn sexuality into a children’s program. I can only guess that as adult viewers some feel need to
    break down childhood innocence and apply ‘adult’ perspectives.
    Calling Bert and Ernie gay also adds to the horrid stereotype that
    only homosexual men can be close friends. It’s forcing a sexual label
    on characters who even their creators have stated aren’t about sex.
    I’m certain there may be some who see this as being “politically
    correct” but it’s dragging children characters into the bedroom.
    Seth MacFarlane’s “Family Guy” even used their ‘gay’ relationship as a joke.

    People should just let Bert and Ernie be themselves instead of forcing them
    and their viewers into adulthood and too early an age.

    • You are sooo right! For us to believe that Ernie & Bert are having a sexual relationship, we would have to ignore a lot of things that happened at their place. #1: Ernie bathes with a rubber ducky that he sings to in the bath tub; #2: Ernie and Bert have twin beds with their initials on them. #3: Their best friends are Elmo (who is obviously a baby) and Big Bird who if he isn’t a child is a developmentally delayed adolescent. This entire ridiculous proposition that you have to “label” even puppets in terms of their sexual preference just shows how silly the person who wrote the dissertation that started this issue is. Children NEVER questioned why Ernie and Bert or ANY of the puppets on Sesame Street seemingly live alone. Children don’t question things like where the food comes from or what the adults do for a living (outside of the owner of the grocery store who in my day was Mr. Hooper). Adults question the mundane realities of life. Sesame Street is a fantasy place. Adults were never supposed to go there and start inserting their ridiculous and offensive suggestions into its existence. If they are so concerned why aren’t they asking why Elmo, a baby, doesn’t have a mother and father looking after him. In fact, who is looking after Elmo and all the other puppet children and making sure they are eating properly? Oops….my adult concerns intruded….that’s why I stopped watching the show when I learned to read.

Sign in to comment.