Why I Won't Sign The Bert And Ernie Gay Marriage Petition
A new petition is racing around the internet urging the creators of Sesame Street to allow Bert and Ernie to become husband and husband now that gay marriage is legal in New York. As of press time, the document has more than three thousand signatures and that number will likely keep climbing. Citing GLBT suicides, homophobia and a need for tolerance, it implores PBS to “plant a seed of peace” by wedding the two beloved characters to show future generations all forms of love should be embraced. I have not, nor will I sign this document. Let me tell you why.
I am a big believer in gay marriage. I've marched in parades, written impassioned arguments on why we should open up the institution and even voted for and financially supported candidates who have share my belief in tolerance. People should be able to do whatever they want provided that behavior is not harming others or draining the system of resources. Plus, getting married is often a very healthy decision. It shows commitment and raises the overall stability of society. I see no downside with letting sane, loving adults make a state-honored vow.
That being said, it is absolutely, positively stupid to turn two odd, effeminate roommates into a married couple simply to prove a point. Do Ernie and Bert have a weird relationship? Yes, they certainly do. If I knew the two characters in real life, I would definitely ask them why they share a bedroom, but while this behavior is bizarre and perhaps childish, it is not evidence for their homosexuality. In fact, it's been widely reported over the years that Ernie and Bert were actually caricaturized versions of how Jim Henson and Frank Oz related to one another.
If Sesame Street wants to introduce a gay character, I'm all for that. The Emmy-winning program has been very progressive over the years dealing with race relations and even HIV. I think diversity is a wonderful lesson to teach children, but it's cheap and unfair to teach that lesson through fundamentally altering the relationship of two characters who have existed in a platonic state for more than forty years. I loved Sesame Street too much as a child to be okay with that.
Change is a great thing, but it can't be retroactively applied to the past. Bert and Ernie have hung out for four decades without taking their relationship to another level, and there's no reason to pressure them into doing that now.