New Yorker's Bert and Ernie Gay Marriage Cover Sparks Divisive Response

8:12 PM PST 06/28/2013 by Aaron Couch
"New Yorker" cover

Mia Farrow and Seth Meyers praise the controversial image of the Sesame Street characters, while left-leaning columnists attack it as infantilizing a historic civil rights moment.

The New Yorker has outed Sesame Street icons Bert and Ernie as a couple on its latest cover, and the reaction online has been strong in both directions.

Next week’s cover, “Moment of Joy,” shows the puppets cuddling while watching an image of Supreme Court justices on television, implying the TV friends are a same-sex couple, following coverage of this week’s rulings on two landmark gay marriage cases.

Mia Farrow tweeted it’s “one of the best New Yorker covers ever,” and Seth Meyers called it “great.”

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The Huffington Post shared the sentiment, running a headline calling the image “amazing.”

New York Magazine’s Dan Amira said the cover was more effective than the image of an “out” gay couple would have been.

“To have a closeted gay couple lends the image deeper meaning: In an intimate moment in the privacy of their home, away from the public eye, they feel heartened that society is finally coming around to accepting them for who they are,” he wrote.

The cover was not well received in other corners, with the right-leaning National Review running it under the headline "Innocence. Lost."

The cover was also attacked from the left, with Flavorwire’s Tyler Coates writing the image “infantilized” the gay rights movement.

“[It’s] belittling the decades-long -- hell, millennia-long -- fight for equal rights by needlessly sexualizing a pair of puppets,” he wrote.

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Slate’s June Thomas declared it a “terrible way” to commemorate the repeal of DOMA, because Bert and Ernie are not actually lovers.

“You see, straight America, there’s a difference between same-sex friends and gay lovers. Does America contain households in which lovers pass themselves off as best pals? No doubt,” Thomas wrote. “And as prejudice against gays and lesbians fades, more of these ambiguously gay couples will declare themselves. But that doesn’t mean that every pair of cohabiting friends is madly making out on a nightly basis.”

Sesame Workshop has not responded to The Hollywood Reporter’s request for comment about the New Yorker cover.

The image has circulated online since last year, when artist Jack Hunter submitted it to a tumblr for a contest. The original image had President Barack Obama on the TV set, not the Supreme Court, and it was created around the time Obama came out in favor of gay marriage.

Sesame Street’s producers have long rebuffed suggestions that Bert and Ernie are a couple. After New York legalized gay marriage in 2011, the show’s producers responded to an online petition urging the famous roommates to wed. 

“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,” Sesame Workshop said in a statement to THR at the time. “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.”

Find more reactions to the New Yorker cover below.

Oscars writer Ben Schwartz:

CNET columnist Ben Parr:

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