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  • Norman Young

Can 6-Year-Old Brothers Be Gay?

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 is 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 theorizin