How the Bert & Ernie Debate Devalues True Friendship

Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS

An announcement by one of the writers of Sesame Street that the famous Muppets known as Bert and Ernie are in a homosexual relationship, reveals the lengths to which ideologues will go to push an agenda that not only destroys the innocence of children by sexualizing them, but also damages their understanding of the value of platonic friendship.

TVLine is reporting on the announcement by former Sesame Street writer, Mark Saltzman, who was in a same-sex relationship at the time, who decided to put to rest a years-long debate about whether or not the Muppets are homosexuals.

According to Queerty, Saltzman admitted: “I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert and Ernie, they were [gay]. I didn’t have any other way to contextualize them.”

In fact, he adds, he and his late partner were often referred to as having a “Bert and Ernie” dynamic.

“That’s what I had in my life, a Bert and Ernie relationship,” Saltzman says. “How could it not permeate? The things that would tick off [then-boyfriend Arnold Glassman] would be the things that would tick off Bert. How could it not? I will say that I would never have said to the head writer, ‘Oh, I’m writing this, this is my partner and me.”

To many, Saltzman’s admission answers a long unanswered question about whether or not Bert and Ernie, who have shared the same address on Sesame Street for nearly 50 years, are homosexual.

In response, Sesame Street issued the following statement: “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. Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics (as many Sesame Street™ Muppets do), they remain puppets and do not have a sexual orientation.”

The show has maintained this stance for years, even when the New Yorker published a cover image in 2013 of Bert and Ernie snuggling on a couch watching a show about the Supreme Court.

Saltzman claims the cover made him feel “vindicated” but most others were horrified by it and saw it as an irresponsible attempt to rob children of their innocence by prematurely sexualizing them.

As Peter Roff wrote in US News & World Report several years ago, when activists were pushing for the show to let Bert and Ernie get married, there are some things children just don’t need to know.

The idea of Bert and Ernie getting married is foolish and culturally destructive “because, if enacted, it would further the end of childhood innocence in America. Children are already bombarded, in and out of school, with messages and meanings that, in my judgment, are far too sophisticated for them to comprehend. Instead, they just confuse and, in some cases, scare them . . .”

Blogger Alyssa Rosenberg summed up an equally important objection. “I think it’s actively unhelpful to gay and straight men alike to perpetuate the idea that all same-sex roommates, be they puppet or human, must necessarily be a gay couple ..”

Chuck Colson, writing for Breakpoint, agrees that teaching children that same-sex friendships are necessarily sexual is not only ridiculous but deeply destructive.

“ . . . [T]hat’s the last thing we want to teach our children, because it will spell the end of friendship, particularly friendships between young men,” Colson writes. “Yet that is precisely the message that’s communicated over and over. It’s the reason gay apologists want to eroticize Bert and Ernie, David and Jonathan, Jesus and the apostle John, and Achilles and Patroclus from Homer’s Iliad.”

He adds: “Some in our culture are apparently incapable of understanding close friendship without sex. And that flies right in the face of a Christian understanding of friendship.”

Scripture teaches us to value a good friend who “sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24) and who “loves at all times” (Proverbs 17:17).

As Thomas Aquinas said, “There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.”

What a valuable lesson to impart to children, and what an irresponsible thing it is to rob them of the opportunity to forge healthy friendships with people of their own sex just for the sake of advancing an agenda!

As Colson concludes: “Bert and Ernie, in spite of differences in personality and temperament — and without any sexual overtones — are the very best of friends. And our kids need that kind of example. They need it from television, parents, and especially the Church in order to see through the hyper-sexualized fog that’s all around them. – and leave politics out of it.”

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