It’s the Sesame Street duo pop culture fans can’t stop talking about.
Back in September, a writer of the beloved show confirmed the two characters are a gay couple.
Soon after, the folks at Sesame Workshop who helped create the show said they are “best friends.”
But as the groundbreaking children’s series celebrates 50 years, The Hollywood Reporter took a closer look at the characters with some surprising results. According to executive vp of Sesame Workshop Brown Johnson, people “can think whatever they want” about Bern and Ernie.
“You want to think they’re gay? OK,” she explained to the publication. “You want to think they’re not gay? They’re not gay.”
In a previous statement, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street tried to set the record straight about the two male characters.
“They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves,” Sesame Workshop shared. “Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics (as most Sesame Street Muppets do), they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation.”
Sesame Street has been known to introduce a variety of characters to young audiences for the first time. In 1975, the show became the first children’s program to show a kid with Down syndrome.
Most recently, a homeless Muppet debuted in December.
“I always knew that when my children watched the interactions of the humans and Muppets…whatever conflicts they had would be resolved from a place of respect and appreciation rather than arrogance or self-righteousness,” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote in a letter for The Hollywood Reporter. “The street and its residents are a brightly colored community that embodies the best teachings of most religions, but without the hard seats and guilt. And with a lot more laughter and silliness.”
And perhaps that’s why Sesame Street is fortunately not going away anytime soon.
Read more about Sesame Street in the February 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter.