Stoffa: Stop the Bert and Ernie marriage nonsense


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Opinion – Bert and Ernie

Gabriel Stoffa

For years, comedians and bored folks who look for drug references or adult-themed jokes in youth programming have speculated on the topic of “Sesame Street’s” Bert and Ernie characters being lovers.

Usually, a laugh is had, and speculation of which drugs the various characters in “Winnie the Pooh” represent comes back to the forefront.

On June 24, New York became the sixth state to make same-sex marriage legal. Shortly after, LGBTQ supporter Lair Scott began a petition for “Sesame Street” to have Bert and Ernie marry.

The problem is, Bert and Ernie aren’t gay. True, they might be hiding in the closet, fearing the potential ridicule of a society that cannot fully understand that gay love is not evil.  Bert and Ernie also might be well-disguised serial killers masquerading behind their odd, yet pleasant lifestyle of baths, toys and songs, but no one is petitioning for that. Yet.

But really, there has been no declaration of this proposed homosexuality on the show. In fact, the powers that be at “Sesame Street” have declared that Bert and Ernie are not gay. And forcing two puppets to marry if they aren’t is wrong, right? Well, I guess puppets don’t have rights, but still.

Could this be a conspiracy by those unfriendly to the LGBTQ community —am I missing any new letters? — to shield children from being exposed to a lifestyle that has been a part of societies across the world as far back as history has been recorded?

Possibly. I mean, it isn’t as if there are any lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer characters on “Sesame Street.” Really? The “Q” stands for queer? Isn’t that covered by the lesbian, gay and bisexual? For that matter, why is the “transgender” there? Every decade the group is adding another letter: LGB in the 1980s; LGBT in the 1990s; LGBTQ in the new millennium; maybe LGBTQX should be next, “X” for “experimented in college.” So, unless you count the guest appearances of openly gay folks — such as the awesome-sauce star of stage and screen Neil Patrick Harris, among others — the characters remain mild-mannered puppets.

Which brings around the second bit some folks are proposing: The introduction of an LGBTQ character onto “Sesame Street” — I would add my “X,” but I don’t think puppets attend college often enough.

Frankly, I see no way to show the puppets being gay short of turning “Sesame Street” into a more “Avenue Q” or “Meet the Feebles” sort of show; neither of which are remotely appropriate for children, and even some adults.

Just because two males or two females choose to spend their days together doesn’t mean they are a couple. Are Penn and Teller’s magical political messages continuing into some bedroom hijinks? Are the “Golden Girls” a gang of bisexual gals? Are Jay and Silent Bob anything except for hetero-lifemates? Are Yogi and Boo-Boo as likely to be a couple, since they don’t wear clothes and sleep together?

Though these examples are meant for comedy, my point is there hasn’t been a whole lot of push to “out” any of these characters for the betterment of educating society.

So why Bert and Ernie? Well, I think this is much like many of the other petitions across the Internet that ask folks to sign things that have no real political intentions of making a difference. This grabs attention and makes some people feel warm and fuzzy at the idea that sexual enlightenment can be appreciated by all.

Guess what, you don’t have to change every little thing to include every single representable walk of life. “Sesame Street” already tries to tackle issues well above children’s heads such as divorce, natural disasters and even 9/11.

Battling the bullying of youth questioning their sexuality is a fine cause. No child should be bullied into taking their own life. But little kids watching “Sesame Street” are no more going to stop being bullied or becoming bullies by having Bert and Ernie or any other puppet be gay, than they are going to prevent kids from becoming serial killers.

Parents or misguided organized religions are going to tell their kids gay is bad no matter what you do. And making a gay puppet sing to kids from a bathtub about their rubber ducky is not going to accomplish anything except some parody videos on YouTube.

The only way to show kids the characters are gay without having the fact brought up every episode, is to have them involve themselves in physical contact. As this is a children’s show, actual sexual acts are right out, as well as discussing sexual acts. So what could the puppets do?

They could kiss, intimately. Yep, that’s it really. Holding hands is already a part of little kids’ lives due to crossing the street and day care, and hugging carries no real message of sexual orientation. So kissing it is, and kissing puppets will just push kids to kiss each other more. Do we really need more kids starting into the road of sexual exploration at a young age?

So rally the troops to battle the bigots of the world that would lash out at someone for being who they are, but stop trying to get people to include any and every lifestyle just because you want to teach acceptance.

Do you really want to turn “Sesame Street” into a political battleground?