Back in August, 2011, a Facebook petition came together asking to have Bert & Ernie, two of Sesame Street’s most recognizable characters, enter into a same-sex marriage. The petition picked up a lot of steam and before all was said and done people in their thousands had signed their names. But the makers of Sesame Street read the petition and turned it down, choosing not to go in the same-sex union direction.
So why did this issue ever come about? The LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender) groups believed that a union between the two males Muppets would save the futures of a lot of LGBT children. Homosexual and transgendered kids have a tough life growing up and there is a high suicide rate among teens that are either the victims of bullying or harbour guilt about their sexuality.
So what was the theory about how a same-sex marriage between the two Muppets could make a difference? The theory was that by having a couple of children’s TV characters getting married on a show would raise generation of kids that would be more tolerant to people living a LGBT lifestyle. Sort of a “teach kids tolerance while their minds are most impressionable” deal. Sesame Street is extremely clever about teaching children their ABCs through repetition. They could use this same power of repetition to embed knowledge of the LGBT lifestyle into the brains of children. The petitioners believe if the idea of a same-sex relationship acceptable on Sesame Street, kids watching it will grow up believing it’s acceptable.
This is where I think the idea was flawed. Now the idea, at it’s heart, is not a bad idea. Saving a young person from bullying and/or suicide is a good thing. A very noble cause. But I don’t think having the backdrop of Sesame Street is ideal for pro-LGBT propaganda. I actually think it would be quite exploitative to use Sesame Street to teach this subject to our tots. Young viewers watch to learn their ABCs. True, there are moral messages in there, but bringing the issue of same-sex marriage to them is a little heavy in my opinion. Since when has Sesame Street ever been about sexuality? The Children’s Television Workshop (CTW) has never explained why men are attracted to women and vice versa. It’s just kind of there. Why, all of a sudden, do they have to explain why a man loves a man or a woman loves a woman? It’s just not necessary. Let kids be kids. Let them watch Sesame Street and learn from and enjoy it as we did as kids. Let’s not complicate it with issues of a sexual variety.