Friday, August 12, 2011

Not That There's Anything Wrong With That (or Bert Enjoying Himself In Ernest)

Nothing spices up an otherwise boring Thursday afternoon like a press release from the producers of Sesame Street announcing that Bert and Ernie are not gay.  It seems there are some gay-rights advocates that are pressuring the folks at Sesame Street to bring the roommates out of the closet--to teach kids "tolerance" for gay couples.  Some even want the duo to participate in a marriage ceremony on the show.

Now it has been a number of years since I watched an episode of Sesame Street.  I gave up on the show when they decided to make it more like "ELMO!!...and the rest of the Muppets" to cash in on marketing of the most annoying character in children's television history.  But when I did watch, I don't remember any Muppet flaunting their sexuality.  Big Bird never went on a date--with Snuffalupagus--or anyone else for that matter.  I can't recall any skits starting with Kermit and Prairie Dawn in bed smoking a cigarette and discussing how awkward it was going to be trying to cover up their affair in front of the other Muppets.  As the show's producers point out in their release, none of the Muppets have any sexual orientation.

One of the most effective aspects of Sesame Street is that "non-human" element of the Muppets.  If you pay close attention, you find that each character represents a child at a different stage of social and educational development.  That allows any child to naturally gravitate to one Muppet or another who most closely matches their own place in life.  Personally, I was always a SuperGrover guy--the well-meaning, slightly-self-agrandizing "superhero" who always arrived to make things worse--until the kids themselves actually solved the problem.

Now let's be honest, everyone already knows that Bert is gay.  High-strung, a neat-freak, collects bottle caps.  I mean c'mon.  As for Ernie, sloppy, laid-back, oblivious to pretty much everything going on around him--he's obviously well on his way to being the guy who sits in the LaZBoy all day and asks his homecoming queen wife to bring him more beer.

Sesame Street has certainly dealt with complex adult situations on the show.  I am in the generation who learned about death on the show about Mr. Hooper passing away.  And I know some of the human women on the show have become pregnant--and that was addressed in a "non-technical" way.  And there have been handicapped children featured on the show.  But in those examples--it was the humans that brought the issue to the Muppet's (and therefore the child watching's) world.

If it is so incredibly important to force homosexuality awareness on children--then introduce some gay adult characters.  Have Ellen and Portia become regulars.  Or Tom Cruise and John Travolta.  Or better yet, watch the show with your own 3,4 or 5-year old child and just pretend that Bert and Ernie are gay.  You can say that they are married--and that's why they live together.  I'm guessing that A--your kid will have absolutely no idea what the hell you are talking about, and B--they will not care at all.  Just like the rest of us.

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