Culture bites is a regular feature at Cross Culture where we examine current events, their cultural significance, and suggest a response for Christians. Feel free to give your own feedback in the comments, and discuss how Christians might analyze these events from a biblical worldview.
Are Bert and Erie Gay?
A longtime writer for Sesame Street roused up a controversy last week when he apparently implied that Bert and Ernie were gay. The comments, which were made to a LGBT magazine, referred to his writing process – ” So I don’t think I’d know how else to write them, but as a loving couple,” said Mark Saltzman. In the interview, he speaks of Bert and Ernie as coming out of his own same-sex relationship. Sesame Workshop, on the other hand, released a statement saying, “As we have always said, 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.”
This was pitched in many circles as yet another example of entertainment pushing a homosexual agenda on children. But as it turns out, there’s a little bit more to the story. Saltzman clarified his comments in an interview with The New York Times, saying they were taken out of context.
“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.”
Additionally, Frank Oz, who helped create the characters, denied that they were intended as gay characters.
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
The lesson here is to take a moment before shifting into pure outrage mode. Comments on social issues that come from interviews like these – especially from niche magazines with a particular mission – are commonly followed with clarifying statements. Bert and Ernie were not intended as a gay couple, and Sesame Street is not trying to turn your kids gay.
Maybe there’s More to Jerks than Being Jerks
The Washington Post recently ran a lengthy feature on Chevy Chase, the once A-lister comedian who hasn’t been able to get much of a job since his role on Community. The actor has a reputation as being someone who’s difficult to work with, and has been tied to racist remarks (he reportedly told Community co-star Donald Glover “people think you’re funnier because you’re black”).
The story by The Post doesn’t deny these characterizations. In fact, in some cases, it affirms them. But it paints a more complicated picture of Chevy Chase. It shows a man who, yes, is brash and offensive, but also someone who’s at times sensitive and, in the words of the piece, “magnanimous.” The feature as a whole is a good reminder that people are never one-dimensional – even the person who always appears to be a jerk might have more going on inside. And understanding those people can go a long way toward helping us to love them.
“I guess the part they don’t write about is where I’m lying in bed, hurt by that, not going to sleep but thinking over and over, why would somebody write that? I’m highly sensitive. I don’t know it in my insensitive self.”