Earlier this week, a gay online publication interviewed Mark Saltzman, one of the many writers employed by The Muppets Studio to work on the show Sesame Street. Queerty asked Saltzman whether he thought Bert and Ernie were gay lovers. Saltzman responded,
"when I was writing Bert & Ernie, they were. I didn’t have any other way to contextualize them."
As a kid growing up watching the show, I always assumed that Bert and Ernie were brothers. After all, Bert is constantly annoyed by Ernie, just as every big brother is annoyed by the brat he had no say about rooming with. Bert and Ernie also have the letters "B" and "E" above their beds, which I assumed was uncommon among unrelated roommates regardless of age or sexual orientation. (But it something a mom might do!) And while no parent ever actually shows up during a Bert and Ernie episode, that didn't seem odd to me. What kid wants their parents showing up when they're playing in their room?
For Saltzman, however, the sibling relationship was apparently not a context he was able to bring into his writing for Sesame Street. I find that quite sad.
Tittering about the sexual orientation of Bert and Ernie is not a new phenomenon. People with vivid imaginations have created a variety of pulp theories about children's characters. Winnie-the-Pooh characters supposedly represent different psychological disorders, from crippling anxiety (Piglet) to hyperactive disorders (Tigger). Some have alleged similar psychological explanations for Sesame Street characters, while others have concocted more entertaining socio-political theories. Disney movies supposedly contain all sorts of secret sexual messages and innuendos.
Needless to say, adult theories regarding children's shows say more about the people doing the theorizing than about the shows their kids are watching. Our culture is madly obsessed with sex, and this obsession explains the political Left's need to reimagine young people's favorite fictional characters in alternative sexual lifestyles. Last year, the hashtags #GiveElsaAGirlfriend and #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend were trending. This year, the Left is taking aim at 6-year-old felt puppets.
And it's not just the far Left. Mainstream media outlets are now promulgating the idea that pre-pubescent children have a sexual orientation. After all, if you can be transgender at six years old, then why can't you be gay at six years old? Or, so the reasoning goes.
Adults in our culture are so obsessed with sex that we tie our very identity to our sexual preferences. Instead of saying "I am attracted to women" (something that probably needn't be said very often), we say "I am a heterosexual." Children follow our example, and have begun to define themselves by a type of desire of which they are not yet even capable.
It is time to give innocence back to children.