Frank Oz weighs in on 'Sesame Street' writer saying Bert and Ernie are gay
"I created Bert. I know what and who he is," Frank Oz wrote on Twitter in response to a user who asked why the characters couldn't be gay.
Sesame Street Muppets Ernie and Bert during a press conference on the 40th anniversary of the Sesame Street.Georg Wendt / EPA file
By Kalhan Rosenblatt
Frank Oz is voice of dozens of puppets and muppets as one of Jim Henson's earliest collaborators — and now the storied puppeteer is lending his voice to the debate over whether or not "Sesame Street" characters Bert and Ernie are gay.
"I created Bert. I know what and who he is," Oz wrote, squashing the idea that Bert and Ernie were a couple.
The decades-old discussion over Bert and Ernie's relationship status raged on Twitter after former "Sesame Street" writer Mark Saltzman told blog "Queerty" he wrote the duo as a couple based on his own real world relationship with film editor Arnold Glassman.
"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," Oz wrote in a tweet. "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."
Oz continued to go back-and-forth with people responding to his tweet who asked why the colorful puppets couldn't be gay.
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"When a character is created to be queer it is indeed important that the character be known as such. It is also important when a character who was not created queer, be accepted as such," Oz wrote.
A statement from Sesame Workshop, which produces "Sesame Street" initially said that the pair had no sexual orientation and that they were simply "best friends."
That statement mirrored a 7-year-old statement issued after a petition to have Bert and Ernie marry on the show earned nearly 11,000 signatures.
But on Tuesday night, Sesame Workshop updated their statement to say that the show had always promoted inclusion.
"Sesame Street has always stood for inclusion and acceptance. It's a place where people of all cultures and backgrounds are welcome. Bert and Ernie were created to be best friends, and to teach young children that people can get along with those who are very different from themselves," the workshop said in a statement emailed to NBC News.
Oz continued to take to Twitter, telling followers he felt he couldn't call Bert and Ernie gay because in his mind it wasn't honest.
When asked why he felt the need to identify the puppets as "not gay," Oz replied: "The same need I would feel if Bert were identified as a linebacker for the Colts. It's not honest."
He also wrote he was happy that people — regardless of their sexual orientation — were able to see themselves in the colorful characters.
"What matters is that if people see positive views of themselves and others in B & E," Oz wrote.
Eventually, Oz decided to to bow out of the Twitter debate, thanking his followers for engaging in the discussion with him.
"Been tweeting waaaaaaaaay too long. But it was good. And I learned something profound. Thanks for those who tweeted with me. Next time I would be very interested to know: If Bert and Ernie were indeed gay, would they be different than they are now?" Oz wrote.