Bert and Ernie, the beloved duo on Sesame Street, were a gay couple, former series writer Mark Saltzman told Queerty in an article published Sunday. But Sesame Workshop denied these claims Tuesday, tweeting that the iconic characters were actually “best friends.”
“As we have always said, Bert and Ernie are best friends,” the statement read. “They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves. Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics (as most Sesame Street Muppets do), they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation.”
The statement drew criticism from some Sesame Street fans. Writer Charlotte Clymer tweeted, “So, basically Muppets possess every single human trait except the ability to love each other in a romantic way?”
Blair Imani, a queer and Muslim activist, tweeted that Sesame Street was denying “young people LGBTQ representation from these beloved characters.”
“They claim puppets don’t have sexual orientations but frequently show their characters in heterosexual relationships; e.g. Elmo’s parents,” Imani wrote.
Saltzman said he based the characters of Bert and Ernie on his real-life relationship with film editor Arnold Glassman.
“It was the Bert and Ernie relationship, and I was already with Arnie when I came to Sesame Street,” he told Queerty. “So I don’t think I’d know how else to write them but as a loving couple.”