'They do not exist below the waist'
Sesame Street plays down Bert’s ‘mo’ tweet
After sharing a bedroom with Ernie on Sesame Street for 31 years, Bert has sent a Twitter update that many in the gay community have interpreted as a public announcement of homosexuality by the famous puppet.
Bert tweeted: “Ever notice how similar my hair is to Mr T’s? The only difference is mine is a little more ‘mo’, a little less ‘hawk’.”
In American slang, “mo” is short for homosexual. That the tweet came when many US cities were hosting gay-pride parades gave substance to the rumour that the writers were creating an in-joke for the gay community.
“The people at Sesame Street are way too clever for their own good,” wrote Ed Kennedy of the gay pop-culture website AfterElton.com. “On the opening weekend of A-Team,and Pride in many cities, they sent out this tweet . . . confirming what we all suspected since childhood.”
Posted in June, the tweet and its reaction went mostly unnoticed by mainstream media until last weekend, when the Los Angeles Timespublished an article about it, giving the story national coverage. A spokesperson for the show denied Bert was gay, saying the writer “had no intention of implying anything by the tweet”. Instead, Sesame Street Workshop insisted the puppets – whose first scene in 1969 showed Ernie taking a bath in the same room as Bert – were neither gay nor straight. “They do not exist below the waist,” the spokesperson said.
This has always been the show’s stance, but that didn’t stop the Rev Joseph Chambers from South Carolina trying to have the pair banned using anti-gay legislation in 1994.
The show has always had jokes and messages under the surface. Characters weren’t named Meryl Sheep and Roosevelt Franklin to get a chuckle out of the children.
“ Sesame Streethas always been written on two levels, for the child and the adult. We use parodies and celebrity segments to interest adults in the show because we know that a child learns best when co-viewing with a parent or care-giver,” said the show.
A former Sesame Street employee, David Fagan, recently wrote about how the crew would create “side jokes” to keep themselves entertained by the juvenile programming.
“The prop department had its fun naming the products that stocked the shelves of good ole Mr Hooper’s store, such as Poop Away toilet paper. (I won’t even tell you what the fibre cereals were called.) Once in a while, a box of condoms would mysteriously appear between cereal boxes.”
For now the debate goes on about this puppet’s true sexuality.