After former “Sesame Street” writer Mark Saltzman’s reveal that famed puppet duo Bert and Ernie are gay, 80’s icon Frank Oz, who created Bert, has come forward to set the record straight (pun intended).
“I created Bert,” says Frank Oz. “I know what and who he is.” And that isn’t gay.
Oz was responding to statements made by Saltzman recently to the outlet Queerty, in which he said that Bert and Ernie were gay and that he even drew inspiration from his own same-sex relationship with film editor Arnold Glassman.
“I remember one time a preschooler [in San Francisco] turned to her mum and asked, ‘are Bert and Ernie lovers?’ and that, coming from a preschooler, was fun,” Saltzman told Queerty. “That got passed around, and everyone had their chuckle and went back to it.
“And I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert and Ernie, they were,” he continued. “I didn’t have any other way to contextualize them.”
Master puppeteer Frank Oz, whom everyone remembers as Yoda in “Star Wars,” publicly disputed Saltzman’s claim from his Twitter account: “It seems Mr. Mark Saltzman was asked if Bert & Ernie are gay. It’s fine that he feels they are. They’re not, of course. But why that question? Does it really matter? Why the need to define people as only gay? There’s much more to a human being than just straightness or gayness.”
It seems Mr. Mark Saltzman was asked if Bert & Ernie are gay. It’s fine that he feels they are. They’re not, of course. But why that question? Does it really matter? Why the need to define people as only gay? There’s much more to a human being than just straightness or gayness.
— Frank Oz (@TheFrankOzJam) September 18, 2018
Why are they not? Not arguing…just wondering.. He said he wrote from that POV…
— Thom spillman (@SpillmanThom) September 18, 2018
Oz’s refutation of Saltzman’s claims did not exactly sit well with some of his Twitter followers, who said he shamed LGBTQ people by not letting them believe that Bert and Ernie swing for their team.
“Why the need to define people as gay? Uh, because we exist. I’m gay. 100% gay,” said one follower. “Always have been, always will be. I’ve known since I was 7, and was told what the word meant. Yes, there are a lot of bi and pan people out there, but there are also A LOT of gay people.”
“You may have created him, but you don’t seem to realize or appreciate what he meant to thousands of little boys growing up,” wrote another. “You digging in your heels (and wrongly conflating romantic orientation with sexual orientation) with what seems like disgust is abjectly disappointing.”
Responding to the accusations of bigotry, Oz said, “As I’ve written, It pleases me that people see themselves and others positively in those characters. The answer to ‘Why is heterosexuality obvious’, is that I’m only writing about a character I created and know. I’m not writing about all people.”
“Sesame Street” also denied Saltzman’s assertions from their official Twitter account.
Please see our statement below regarding Bert and Ernie. pic.twitter.com/6r2j0XrKYu
— Sesame Workshop (@SesameWorkshop) September 18, 2018