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Tue Feb 12, 2019, 04:27 AM

As Sesame Street Turns 50, a Gay Writer Reflects on Bert & Ernie

It seems serendipitous that Sesame Street premiered the same year as the Stonewall uprising. Both the educational children's show and the queer riots changed America irrevocably, paving the way for a more inclusive nation.

This is how Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit that produces Sesame Street, described the genesis of the program: "Set against the backdrop of the civil rights movement and the war on poverty, Sesame Street was created to answer a simple question: could television be used to level the playing field and help prepare less advantaged children for school?"

As Sesame Street ó and the modern LGBTQ movement ó celebrate big anniversaries this year, we spoke with one of the show's most famous writers, Mark Saltzman. The out screenwriter was caught up in a maelstrom a few months back when he told Queerty that the characters he helped bring to life, Bert and Ernie, were actually gay. LGBTQ fans cheered, conservatives wailed, and Sesame Street representatives denied the assertion in an initial statement some viewed as vaguely homophobic. Saltzman would later temper his statements, but in an interview with The Advocate, he offered a very nuanced take on the characters and their importance. Here's what he said:

The Advocate: How do you reflect on the controversy now?
Mark Saltzman: Iím glad the attention came to the bigger issue of gay characters being represented in childrenís TV. It just seems odd that itís taken so long, If you think of network television, what year is it ó why aren't there gay characters on TV? Is it 1980?

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It both sad, and a bit funny, to watch straight people shit themselves over this "controversy".

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