Now that same-sex marriage is legal in New York, it is nice to see that we can go back to focusing on what is really important: the sexual orientations of Muppets. Internet “activists” began an online petition–because those are so effective–calling for The Children’s Television Workshop to marry Ernie and Bert. (Please don’t sign the petition, you’ll only encourage them.) I thought it was a joke. Somehow this idiotic idea got picked up by the media, who turned a complete non-story into major news. Is it any wonder why I distrust the media?
The Children’s Television Workshop responded (foolishly in my opinion, because it only feeds the fire) by saying that Bert and Ernie are roommates, not partners, they will not be getting married, and Muppets do not have sexualities. Critics pointed out that Kermit and Miss Piggy have sexualities–well really only Miss Piggy–conveniently forgetting that Miss Piggy is from the Muppet Show which is (a) a separate entity from Sesame Street, and (b) a show for adults pretending to be children’s entertainment. (Miss Piggy is also violent, but no one would advocate Grover attacking other residents of Sesame Street.)
Ernie and Bert were created to show that people with different personalities, hobbies, likes, and styles can be friends. What the petitioners don’t seem to realize is that both Ernie and Bert are actually children in the same way that Big Bird, Elmo, Prairie Dawn, and the rest are. They were designed to be developmentally equivalent to children of specific age ranges. Giving them sexualities would therefore be completely inappropriate. Children do not get married. (I can hear critics responding that children also do share apartments, but once again, it misses the entire point of Bert and Ernie.)
This is not to let the Children’s Television Workshop completely off the hook. Sesame Street is full of different kinds of people and families. Sesame Street could hire actors to play a same-sex couple (same-sex parents even) to live side-by-side with couples like Maria and Luis or Gordon and Susan. Sesame Street could also invite a famous gay guest star (Neil Patrick Harris for example) and have that guest star introduce his or her family. Or the Children’s Television Workshop could create Muppets who differ from stereotypical boy/girl behavior: a male Muppet who prefers dolls to trucks or a female Muppet who prefers trucks to dolls. This would not to teach overtly about sexuality but rather tolerance for those who are different. (Does Sesame Street have this? I haven’t watched in years, but I have not heard anything of the like so I assume they do not.)
One can understand why Sesame Street is hesitant to include anything that with a hint of sexual orientation. It’s red meat for social conservatives who already hate the show and want to cut off PBS funding. One might describe this attitude as “Think of the children (except for their welfare, well-being, or educational needs.)”
An Ernie and Bert marriage completely misses the point of Sesame Street, and that is to teach the importance of an inclusive community. Sesame Street can take positive steps to include LGBT families, but stupid online petitions about Muppet sexuality get more publicity.