Saturday, August 13, 2011

A gay wedding on Sesame Street?

For the record, I don’t care if Bert and Ernie are gay, or straight. Cousins, or friends. Or just a couple of guys who share a basement apartment.
BERT & ERNIE: First Puerto Rican. Now gay?

I’m inclined to think that people who want to make this an issue of these two long-time characters on Sesame Street (regardless of their stance) are saying more about themselves than anything related to Dagoberto and Ernesto.

LET’S NOT FORGET that Bert and Ernie are supposed to be Puerto Rican – which was a revelation that managed to offend some in our society when it was made a few years ago by the creators of the television show that has been around so long that I can remember watching it on television when it first came on the air in the early 1970s.

Now, there are people who are trying to claim that the puppet characters of Bert and Ernie are gay. There are those who believe that the Sesame Street television program should use their orientation to make a statement to young children about tolerance by having the two get married.

After all, they already live together – and have done so for four-plus decades. Now that we have gay marriage in New York, along with civil union in Chicago and other places, perhaps it is time that this lesson get taught to children.

Their rhetoric has become so intense that there is a page on Facebook for people who accept the idea. Entitled “Bert and Ernie Get Married,” more than 5,600 people indicated they “liked” the idea as of Friday night.

THERE ALSO IS an Internet-based petition on by which people can express their support, and some 7,960 people had placed an e-signature in favor of the idea.

Of course, there also are those who are using assorted Internet sites to post comments indicating they hate the idea, and see all of this rhetoric as some sort of plot by gay activists to gain visibility for their cause – one that they would prefer remain invisible, if not demonized outright.

Now I’m not about to sign any petitions (usually because I avoid signing anything, no matter how much I agree with it) on this issue – even though the people who are getting upset over this are managing to be offensive.

They would deserve to lose, and I wouldn’t mind a “gay” wedding on Sesame Street just because I realize how much it would offend them.

YET I ALSO can’t help but have my problems with the people who are pushing this concept – which was started by a gay activist who lives in suburban Oak Park.

Because it seems like a cheap attempt to create an issue where none really existed.

I couldn’t help but notice the statement issued by the Children’s Television Workshop (the producers of Sesame Street) in response to this whole controversy.

“Bert and Ernie are best friends. They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves,” the workshop said, adding that neither character has a sexual orientation.
NOW THAT COULD be an attempt by the television producers to try to neuter this controversy, which could scare some people away from letting their children watch Sesame Street. Although I’d like to think that real people would laugh at the whole issue just as they did when the Rev. Jerry Falwell said over a decade ago that Tinky Winky of the Teletubbies (the purple one with a triangle-shaped antenna) was gay.

I thought back then that Falwell had too much free time on his hands to be creating in his mind a conspiracy by which children’s television was undermining their values.

Now, we have a lot of people who are trying to plan a puppet wedding, or sabotage it. Way too much time on their hands!

Then again, there are those people who claim that Bert has made comments throughout the years that indicate he is gay. Although I wonder if the people who watch Sesame Street for evidence of homosexuality are the equivalent of those Kremlinologists who used to study parade viewing stand positions to figure out who was in, and who was out, in the old Soviet Union.

NOW HAVING BEEN critical of people who want to make an issue of homosexuality and tolerance on this long-running television show, let me also criticize those who want to argue that the kind of kids who watch Sesame Street are too young to have to address this issue.

“Relationships are for older children,” is one of the nicer comments along this line. Some people are being much more crude when expressing their opposition on this point. I actually don’t have a problem with the idea of tolerance being taught at such a young age. If anything, I can’t help but think that if we wait until someone is in those teenage years to try to push this point, then it is already too late.

Pushing the concept of people being people, regardless of their beliefs, combined with the idea that not everybody agrees on everything, is something that ought to be a no-brainer.

They certainly are ideas that should not be too complex for a 4-year-old to comprehend – regardless of how Bert and Ernie fit into the picture.


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