Some folks have gotten together a petition on Change.org calling on Sesame Street to have Bert and Ernie get married or for the show to add a transgender character. I’m not sure I have an opinion on the latter, but I’m pretty firmly against the idea that New York’s two most famous roommates should tie the knot.
If Bert and Ernie were gay, I would be all for them bopping down to City Hall and getting hitched. But the characters aren’t gay. People may want them to be gay, but the Sesame Workshop has repeatedly denied that either character is homosexual and that they are a couple, and I’m pretty firmly in favor of creators’ rights to determine basic facts about their characters. We can debate the specifics of the characters’ portrayal, but if Sesame Street says the pair isn’t gay, it would be a bit odd to force them to get married because we want some role models. Archie Comics’ approach, adding and firmly establishing a new gay characters, makes much more sense than this kind of justice-oriented retcon.
And more to the point, I think it’s actively unhelpful to gay and straight men alike to perpetuate the idea that all same-sex roommates, be they puppet or human, must necessarily be a gay couple. Having close, affectionate friendships with another man doesn’t mean that you two are sleeping together, just as liking fashion doesn’t automatically flip a switch on your sexual orientation and make you only interested in dudes. Such assumptions narrow the aperture of what we understand as heterosexual masculinity in a really strange way. As much as I write about how narrow depictions of women can be in pop culture, depictions of men may end up being more positive, but that doesn’t mean they’re less limiting.