It was a simpler time, perhaps, when Ernie and Bert were first introduced in 1969. Originally, the two muppets created by Jim Henson, was supposed to teach children that people could be friends despite so many differences.
Ernie is a dark colored, rotund shaped puppet and Bert is a light colored, longish puppet who lived together in an apartment on Sesame Street. On the surface of it, perhaps muppets showed children how vastly different people could get along with each other and on another level, it perhaps also reflected how the characters may have been conceived in the milieu of racial tensions in the United States.
They were probably also modeled after tandem comedians Laurel and Hardy and Abbot and Costello. Ernie is the boring, straight-laced character while Ernie is the goofy prankster and most of the skits involving the two revolve around Ernie infuriating Bert.
In the face of the legalization of gay marriage, should the muppets be used to teach children the why two people of the same sex can get married?
Of course, the more progressive attitude is to teach children things as soon as they show a capacity to understand what is being taught. The attitude that is sometimes prescribed for parents is to tell children about difficult topics such as sex within a context that they can understand. Of course, explaining where birds and bees come from seems far more easier than explaining why two men or two women have sex with one another.
This is a reality that seems quite challenging to discuss without being branded negatively either way.
The Christian Science Monitor discussed the issue of Ernie and Bert’s marriage by making a guess on where the two muppets lived and figuring that if they lived in an area where gay marriage was legal, then they’d most probably could get married.
But this really is argumentum ad absurdium since the muppets are as fictional as the street they live in and beyond that, what we are really dealing with are, perhaps, symbols. So, perhaps, the question is whether symbols or the physical representations of fictional characters can be married? In a symbolic and fictional way, perhaps, they can — after all, there are no limits to what people can conceive.
Still, what would such a marriage teach us and our children?
Anyway, so far the petition “Let Bert and Ernie get Married on Sesame Street” has so far gathered nearly 9,000 signatures. The first paragraph of the petition itself gives an explanation:
In this horrid age of LGBTQ kids taking their own lives and being beaten for who they are, need to know that they’re BEAUTIFUL, as Christine’s song goes. Bullies that facilitate those tragedies be it verbal or otherwise should be taught that homophobia is NOT okay.
Children and parents need to learn that acceptance of humankind, even puppets, would indeed plant a seed of peace that will reverberate throughout the universe.
We are not asking that Sesame Street depict anything crude or disrespectful; this is NOT about any other issue other than education. Sesame Street claims Bert and Ernie are only friends, though that’s how marriage begins, right?
If they are ONLY puppets, why do they have HUMAN traits and traditions and families? This should not be the end of the issue as why hasn’t Sesame Street extended an olive branch out to this new era of one worldness, be inclusive, and offer to develope contemporary LGBTQ puppets and human characters? It would prove to past and current viewers that it’s spelled L-O-V-E, not H8.
Paul Farol is a Filipino writer and blogger currently based in Manila. He is currently a media practitioner and is involved in community development projects in Northern and Southern Luzon, Philippines.