Ernie is Mean to Bert

In response to an internet petition to let Bert and Ernie get married, Sesame Street has officially announced that the two Muppets “do not have a sexual orientation.” And come to think of it, I can’t recall any sketches where Bert or Ernie were romantically interested in anyone. The idea that a gay couple would be “sexualizing” a show is usually kind of a bogus complaint, since there are plenty of kids’ shows – including Sesame Street – with heterosexual couples. And as people are already pointing out, there are Muppet characters who have expressed heterosexual attraction, so it doesn’t make sense to say they’re asexual just because “they’re puppets.” But the asexuality of Bert and Ernie seems sort of built into their characterizations.

That said, my only problem with Ernie marrying Bert is that Ernie is a terrible, terrible partner who makes Bert’s life miserable. I know some people find Bert to be a wet blanket and killjoy. And he is. But as a kid, I got really angry at Ernie when I saw this sketch. He not only keeps Bert up at night (“oh, not again,” Bert says, implying that Ernie has done this before), but calls on his evil power to command animals and gets Bert thrown out of the house, looking desperately through the window while being menaced by evil dancing sheep. Meanwhile, Ernie happily falls asleep, not caring that he’s left his “friend” to be eaten by demon-sheep. No, Bert just has to get away from this lunatic.

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