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Are Bert and Ernie a gay couple? Finally, the answer

Longtime Sesame Street writer Mark Saltzman revealed the truth — but it may not be the end of the debate.

Longtime Sesame Street writer Mark Saltzman revealed the truth — but it may not be the end of the debate.

(Facebook/Sesame Street)

For generations, Bert and Ernie have been two of Sesame Street's most beloved characters, and together they taught kids about everything from math to interpersonal cooperation.

But there has always been a lingering question: are Bert and Ernie, who live together but have separate beds, more than friends?

The creators of Sesame Street have always skirted the question, but now they have come out — and it turns out the answer used to be yes. And now it seems to be no.

According to a recent interview with longtime Sesame Street writer Mark Saltzman, when he wrote scripts for the pair, he used interactions with his partner Arnie as inspiration.

"I always felt that, without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert & Ernie, they were [a couple]. I didn't have any other way to contextualize them," he said in the Queerty interview. "The other thing was, more than one person referred to Arnie and I as 'Bert & Ernie.'"

"Yeah, I was Ernie. I look more Bert-ish. And Arnie as a film editor—if you thought of Bert with a job in the world, wouldn't that be perfect? Bert with his paper clips and organization?" said Saltzman.

"And I was the jokester. So it was the Bert and Ernie relationship, and I was already with Arnie when I came to Sesame Street. So I don't think I'd know how else to write them but as a loving couple," he added. "Arnie's OCD would create friction with how chaotic I was — and that's the Bert and Ernie dynamic."

So case closed. They're a couple, right?

Not so fast. After Saltzman's interview was published, Sesame Workshop — the makers of Sesame Street — released a statement about the sexual orientation of the colourful co-habitators.

"As we have always said, Bert and Ernie are best friends," reads the statement, which was published on Twitter.

"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."

So where does that leave the pair's status? As Facebook would say, "It's Complicated."

About the Author

Jennifer Van Evra

Jennifer Van Evra is a Vancouver-based journalist and digital producer for q. She can be found on Twitter @jvanevra or email jennifer.vanevra@cbc.ca.

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