By SARAH CALLEJA
I was horrified to read years ago that Noddy and Big Ears were forced to deny ‘improper relationship’ in Toy Town.
Not to be outdone, it appears that Bert and Ernie, the iconic residents (and roommates) of the long-running children’s TV series Sesame Street, have been ‘outed’ over their (assumed) sexual identity by no less than the New Yorker magazine in the wake of the US Supreme Court’s landmark ruling to overturn the Defence of Marriage Act.
On the cover image the couple are sitting on a couch with Bert’s arm wrapped around Ernie and Ernie’s head nestled against Bert’s shoulder. They are watching the Supreme Court decision granting same-sex couples the “equal liberty” guaranteed by the US constitution’s Fifth Amendment.
As the US grapples with serious economic and social challenges, the release of the cover image has provoked fierce debate, about the sexual orientation of this couple and the potential for litigation by Sesame Workshop —which owns the characters — against the magazine.
I loved the denial by Sesame Workshop back in 2007 opening: “[Bert and Ernie] are not gay, they are not straight, they are puppets. They do not exist below the waist.”
The characters Noddy and Big Ears and Bert and Ernie demonstrate friendship and conflict resolution in a manner that children can positively relate to. Is it really important that these characters have a label for their sexual orientation? Is the fact that these characters are friends not enough? Are these characters less educational, less relevant and potentially despicable if they exist below the waist?
What then is the optimum age to start to discuss sexual orientation with our kids?