The cover for the July issue of The New Yorker celebrates the end of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the nullification of California’s one-man-one-woman marriage amendment. It is a portrait of Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie in each other’s arms as they watch a TV showing an image of the nine Supreme Court Justices.
The cover art is titled “Moment of Joy” and was created by artist Jack Hunter. His cover concept was submitted via the artist’s social media campaign.
“It’s amazing to witness how attitudes on gay rights have evolved in my lifetime,” Hunter said. “This is great for our kids, a moment we can all celebrate.”
Gay activists have for many years maintained that the two muppet characters are “gay” despite the fact that the venerable children’s show does not introduce sexual themes to its audience and has not traditionally assigned sexual actions or motives to its characters. Sesame Street is aimed at preschool children.
Some are celebrating this cover sexualizing kids’ cartoon characters, but not everyone. At Slate, June Thomas says it’s a “terrible way to commemorate a major civil-rights victory for gay and lesbian couples.”
Thomas points out that the folks at Children’s Television, the creators of Sesame Street, have said directly that Bert and Ernie are not gay.
In 2007, president and CEO Gary Knell wrote, “They are not gay, they are not straight, they are puppets… they do not exist below the waist.”
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. 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.
A Huffington Post Media post, however calls the cover art “one of its most awesome covers of all time.”
Despite the firm decision by Sesame Street that they don’t want to sexualize these decades-old kids characters, many in the gay lobby continue to push for the show to do just that. In 2011 a campaign was launched by radical gay activists to force the show to “marry” the muppets. The producers of the show firmly rejected the notion.