+ I can’t believe it’s been seven entire years since I last wrote about Bert and Ernie maybe or maybe not being gay and now here we are again, as a culture, asking ourselves: are Bert and Ernie gay? Mark Saltzman, who wrote the beloved Sesame Street characters between 1985 and 1998, did an interview with Queerty in which he said, “When I was writing Bert & Ernie, they were [lovers]. I didn’t have any other way to contextualize them.”
His comments, thrust to the forefront of the piece by the headline ARE BERT AND ERNIE GAY? WE FINALLY HAVE AN ANSWER, set off a frenzied 24 hours of news and inspired a lot of very funny tweets. Sesame Street said muppets don’t have sexual orientations, Frank Oz said they aren’t gay but also it wouldn’t matter if they were because sexuality is not everything you guys except also FYI their sexuality is “not gay” just so you know, Sesame Street erased its former statement and made a new statement, and Saltzman did a phone interview with The New York Times, clarifying: “As a writer, you just bring what you know into your work. Somehow, in the uproar, that turned into Bert and Ernie being gay. There is a difference.”
The Queerty interview is a truly remarkable conversation between a contemporary gay publication and a gay storyteller who spoke with eloquence and compassion about his experiences coming out and growing up during the AIDS crisis. The headline Queerty chose was a hit, for sure, but it wasn’t really representative of the story the piece itself told.
“It’s important to note that if Saltzman’s original comment to Queerty that ‘when I was writing Bert & Ernie, they were lovers’ was true, it seems to have been an impulse born out of the deep existential crisis of being gay during the AIDS epidemic,” Aja Romano writes in Vox. “It was an era when an entire culture was under attack — if not from the disease directly, then from the many homophobic parameters that arguably worsened the scope of the tragedy.” For Salzman, Romano concludes, writing Bert and Ernie as gay “was a way to positively affirm oneself and one’s relationship in an era when everything around you was working to erase you.”
I ended up reading that twitter thread you maybe read too last night — about how quickly it seems younger queers are forgetting an entire generation wiped out by HIV/AIDS in the ’80s and ’90s and also the entire generation of gay men and women who survived, but not without a heavy heart and many battle scars. So after reading that Queerty interview today and Vox’s explainer, (which is a must-read as it provides a really comprehensive look at the history of their subtextual relationship) — it just felt especially important to bring it to your attention.
Also, I think we all know in our hearts that Bert and Ernie are gay, and so is Prairie Dawn.
+ Good news: that show “The Bisexual” that Hulu picked up is gonna be directed by Desiree Akhavan, who will also star in the project. In other words — it’s gonna be good! The show is described like so:
“Set in London, the story follows New Yorker Leila (Akhavan). When she goes on a break with her 10-year girlfriend and business partner Sadie (Peake), she moves in with novelist Gabe (Brian Gleeson). He becomes her wingman as she explores the life of dating both men and women for the first time.”
+ Cher has released a music video for her all-female cover of SOS featuring trans actress Trace Lysette and lesbian comedian Sabrina Jalees and it is bananas and beautiful and full of hot lesbian fashion.
+ Amandla Stenberg is on the cover of Seventeen Magazine, discussing things including her sexuality:
Gender and sexuality are so fluid—it’s okay to change your mind a million times and figure out what works for you,” she said. “It’s okay to take your time… I’d been out as bisexual, and people have known I’m queer for a long time. I saw some comments that made me chuckle, like, ‘Girl, we been knew!’ But I wanted to make it very clear that I have romantic love for women.”
+ A lot of lesbian film happening in Canada this week:
Toronto Film Review: ‘Vita & Virginia’: “…aside from the creamy, fresh, bright tones of Carlos De Carvalho’s photography, and the surprising, but successfully anachronistic melodic electro score from Isobel Waller-Bridge, it seems that Button, in just her second feature, will allow the lesbian angle to set the film apart from its period-drama brethren and otherwise won’t do too much to air out those stuffy, damask-curtained rooms.”
‘Tell It to the Bees’: Film Review: “Given that eclectic background, Jankel seems a slightly odd fit for this period-set romantic drama, although her visual effects skills must have been helpful for supervising the creation of a swarm of digital bees. The result should appeal to audiences with a soft spot for stories about plucky, convention-defying women falling in love while wearing floaty, vintage tea dresses — and keeping bees. Some might mutter about the industry’s preference for lesbian-themed movies in which the leads just so happen to be thin, femme and pretty, but it’s hard to dislike this pleasant, earnest work.”
Women directors thrive at Quebec City’s film festival: “From Spain, Carmen Y Lola is a lesbian love story about two gypsy teens. Carmen is engaged when she meets Lola at the market. Lola, it seems, is cousins with her fiancé. They strike up a friendship over cigarette breaks and Lola develops a crush.”
+ GQ Magazine on “The Re-reinvention of Christine and the Queens,” including the public reaction to her boyish haircut and decision to go as Chris, which apparently inspired the media to speculate that she was transitioning:
Chris describes it charmingly as a “wonderful” cocktail of homophobia and sexism. “It’s like a flower bouquet they give me,” she says. In France, her haircut made the news. “I get comments: ‘You look like a boy. Grow it back.’ When you’re a woman working on a masculine energy, either you’re transitioning or you’re a butch lesbian. Fluidity is impossible.”
+ Into talks to former child star and current actress / activist / musician / dancer Alyson Stoner: “[People believe] that I’m sharing my sexuality because it’s more popular now. I’m sure I could have created some controversy and maybe have gotten more attention and more streams, but I don’t want to look back and feel like I could have been more sensitive to people watching.”
+ The One Friends Wedding Scene That Missed the Mark: “The two women getting married didn’t actually kiss, which social critics like Lynn Elber saw as continuing a trend that saw gay characters receive more screen time (Will & Grace would premiere two years after this Friends episode), but have them basically avoid all physical contact with their romantic interests.”
+ Anna Friel hopes trans drama can change perceptions like Brookside lesbian kiss: (However, the show has not seemed to change the perception of the author of this article, who described it as being about “a boy who wishes to live as a girl.”)