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Bert & Ernie Not Gay

12th August 2011

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The true nature of the relationship between flatmates Bert and Ernie on Sesame Street has repeatedly been questioned during the show's long run, but recent Facebook-campaigns have intensified the discussion, as many argue that a wedding between Bert and Ernie will teach children about marriage-equality.bert and ernie

However, the people behind Sesame Street have now entered the discussion, issuing a statement saying;

"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."

By stating that the puppets do not have a sexual orientation, the show is distancing themselves from the debate which is (especially nowadays) connected to marriage equality. It is understandable that a children's show does not wish to push any political agenda, but to claim that the "cast" of Sesame Street are asexual is obviously not completely correct, as one of the main features of the show is the relationship between Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy.

The people behind Sesame Street are put in a difficult situation here, as they are a children's show and can therefore not use their influence on young audiences to enter such a debate as the one about marriage equality, but they also cannot risk to offend the public by making a statement which in any way will portray a homosexual relationship as wrong or unacceptable. What is important to point out in this discussion is that it is not sexual equality, which Sesame Street is taking a stance from, but the political agenda which has been attached to it in the last decade or so.

Like it or not, including gay characters on a series - whether it be aimed at children, teenagers or adults - is taking a political stance, so even if the people behind Sesame Street are all for gay marriage they will not include their own political views on their show, just as they would not express their views about other political issues through their characters.

Of course, several shows and films targeted at younger audiences have over the years made a point of teaching children about racial equality, as they would most likely be chastised if they did not do so. However, racism has for many years been more of a social and moral issue rather than a political one, and it therefore does not have the same political associations as homophobia does: while the majority of countries in the world have racial equality as a main part of their law systems, many countries and most American states have yet to legalise same-sex marriages.

Perhaps the real discussion here is whether it even is Sesame Street's responsibility to teach sexual equality, or if the responsibility should not be put on our governments.

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