Bert & Ernie
Gay Characters on Children’s TV, from Bert to SpongeBob
Should Bert and Ernie get gay married? Watch video of other possibly closeted kids’ characters. Should Bert and Ernie Get Hitched?
Bert: Tweeting Out of the Closet
Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie are just friends and bickering bedmates. But people have speculated for years that the puppets may be gay, and now 900 people have signed a petition on Change.org for the old friends to marry. “We are not asking for Sesame Street to do something crude and disrespectful,” the petition says. “Let us teach tolerance of those that are different.” Many interpreted Bert’s use of the word “mo” in a tweet back in June as a subtle nod to the homosexual community. But the non-profit Sesame Workshop insisted in a statement to Fox News that Bert and Ernie’s relationship is platonic. “They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves,” the statement read, adding that the Sesame Street Muppets “have no sexual orientation.”
Tinky Winky: The Purse Controversy
Don’t be fooled by the baby-faced sun and green hills in the Teletubbies. In 1999, Evangelical pastor Jerry Falwell accused the character Tinky Winky of being a closeted homosexual and therefore a “moral menace.” Falwell’s foolproof reasoning: Tinky Winky is purple with triangular antennae, both of which allegedly signal gay pride. Tinky Winky carried what the BBC called a “magic bag”—or something identical to a ladies’ red purse. The official statement from Itsy-Bitsy Entertainment is that Tinky Winky is neither gay nor straight. Dipsy, Laa-Laa, and Po have never commented on the issue.
SpongeBob SquarePants: ‘Erotic Intensity’ in Bikini Bottom
SpongeBob SquarePants should breathe a sigh of relief that anti-gay marriage legislation is not enforced over the underwater city of Bikini Bottom. At least that’s what an evangelical group thought in 2005, after SpongeBob appeared in a video promoting tolerance for different “sexual identities”. Critics argue that SpongeBob has never considered his friend Sandy the squirrel from Texas or any aquatic female a love interest, yet he spends an exorbitant amount of time with his starfish pal Patrick. Author Jeffrey P. Dennis has suggested a potential “erotic intensity” between the two, but SpongeBob and Patrick have only held hands. The show’s creator has said the character, like a real sponge, is probably asexual.
Peppermint Patty: Sir, Are You a Lesbian?
While there’s no official documentation that any of the Peanuts characters are gay, Peppermint Patty’s failure to woo Charlie Brown has sparked rumors about her sexuality. The freckled tomboy is known for spending most of her time with “Chuck” playing sports, or her best friend Marcie (their relationship was mocked on Family Guy. Chris Rock has outed Patty as a lesbian, and it was reported in 2005 that Chief Justice John Roberts played her in an all-boys production of You’re a Good Man, Chalie Brown. Internet chatter suggests that Charles Schulz’s friendship with openly gay tennis star Billie Jean King influenced Patty.
Vanity Smurf: Mirrors and Flowers
With the exception of Smurfette, the Smurfs are all short blue males in clean white pants and conical hats who choose skipping as their main mode of transportation. Despite his signature Smurf good vibes, Vanity Smurf, however, has been included on many lists of ambiguously gay television characters. Interestingly, Vanity does wear a flower on his hat and is always carrying a mirror. Perez Hilton and Donnie Darko have had fun with this idea. But maybe Donnie’s right when he philosophizes about the illogical and asexual existence of the Smurfs.
Piglet: Pooh’s Gay Friend?
It’s unclear whether rumors about Piglet from Winnie-the-Pooh evolved from online commentary, forums, or hard facts. What is known is that Pooh’s best friend always wears a tight pinkish red one-piece, has a squeaky voice, and is somewhat of a neat freak.
Velma: A Scooby-Doo Mystery
Here’s a mystery that Scooby-Doo and the gang may not be able to crack anytime soon: Is Velma a lesbian? It may be her short haircut or lack of chemistry with Shaggy and Fred (her orange sweater doesn’t exactly let her scream sex appeal like Daphne), but viewers have taken particular interest in discussing Velma’s sexual orientation. Kevin Smith’s Jay and Silent Bob even weighed in on the issue. We think Velma would just say, “Jinkies! Why does any of this matter?”
He-Man: Beefcake of the Universe
There is no hero (or beefcake) in this universe equivalent to He-Man, who is called the inspiration for the sexual comedy in the SNL skit “The Ambiguously Gay Duo.” Supporters of the gay He-Man theory point to his alter ego Prince Adam, who wears a fashionable pink top, purple spandex, and purple Ugg boots. And when he undergoes a transformation into the master of the universe—a transformation that doesn’t put a single hair on his blond bob out of place—he dons furry underwear.
Stewie Griffin: In and Out of the Closet
While Family Guy isn’t aimed at children, its main character is a closeted 1-year-old. Stewie is usually hell bent on world domination and killing his mother, but occasionally viewers get a glimpse of his yearning for a gay life. Seth MacFarlane, creator of the show and voice of Stewie, has said this is no mistake. Stewie was originally supposed to come out of the closet, but the writers decided to have fun with his “ambiguous” sexuality. Fans of the show, however, know there’s nothing really ambiguous about Stewie’s sexuality.
Cogsworth: A Flamboyant Clock
While Lumière, better known as the candlestick from Beauty and the Beast, is known as a womanizer who enjoys welcoming guests and vying for the attention of Fifi Featherduster, the sexuality of Cogsworth the Clock has been a point of contention. Perhaps it was the crotchety character’s lack of a sexual appetite (he was always worrying about his boss) that drew suspicions. Cogsworth was voiced by actor David Ogden Stiers, who came out in 1999 and suggested that the character was merely flamboyant and not necessarily gay.
Snarf: The Forgotten Thundercat
Thundercats was one of a handful of action cartoons that, for many boys in the ’80s, defined Saturday mornings. The high-pitched, whiny sidekick to Lion-O and arguably most annoying character in the series, Snarf, has been the target of gay rumors. Watch as Snarf takes on the Thundercats’ arch-enemy, Mumm-Ra.
Sujay Kumar works at The Daily Beast. He's written for MTV Splash Page and The Daily Illini.