Gay Muppets

I misread Julian Sanchez’s post and unfortunately mischaracterized his argument because of it. I still think we disagree, on some level, about what ought to be done regarding the representation of gays on Sesame Street. Julian did not argue that Bert and Ernie should be married or presented as a gay couple, but he does argue for the inclusion of gay muppets (it’s the title of the post, after all). I think the muppets should remain essentially without sexual orientation. The muppets are basically children, or childlike. Certainly they are not fully developed people with human relationships beyond the platonic. I see very little value added, all controversy aside, adding gay muppets to the show. Again, though, a gay human couple would be fine, quite likely a positive inclusion, and wouldn’t have to include any overt discussions of the nature of the relationship since sexuality is just not a topic on Sesame Street, for obvious reasons. On this I think Julian and I agree:

That doesn’t mean there needs to be overt discussion of sexuality, any more than the presence of black characters requires an explanation of the horrific conditions under which African slaves were transported to the new world, or how their ancestors won civic equality decades later. It just means that having a cast with human characters of multiple races is a choice, even if “race” is never discussed, and a choice that implicitly “teaches” something different from a show where non-white faces are never glimpsed, or where characters of different races are present, but never interact (even if, again, this fact is never mentioned). If the show had nothing but Muppets, of course, the question wouldn’t arise at all. But if, for 40 years, every human adult or child face on the show were white, we would not be much impressed with the defense: “Well, it is not Sesame Street’s mission to teach kids about race relations.” If the ideal community represented by Sesame Street were 100% Anglo-Saxon in a country that’s about 64% non-Hispanic white, the complete absence of race relationswould be teaching kids something about race relations. That’s one reason Sesame Street has always maintained a diverse human cast—and taught kids something precisely by showing all these friendly neighbors who don’t ever have to bring up the topic of race.

Of course, any addition of a gay couple – human or muppet, subtle or not – will be met with serious political backlash. It’s a culture war, after all.

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64 thoughts on “Gay Muppets

  1. I’ve always believed that there is a certain % of gays and their supporters who believe that the quickest path to acceptance is to shove their lifestyle into as many people’s faces as possible until society basically taps out. I see no other explanation for efforts like this one.

    I know that sounds cynical but there is a time and a place for everything and this goes sound less like pushing acceptance and more like indoctrination.

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  2. I think the overall reaction here is fairly strong support for one of the worries I expressed in the Star Trek post. A substantial portion of any pop culture audience will view almost any portrayal of same-sex love as some kind of anomaly, or as Mike says in the first comment “shov[ing] their lifestyle in people’s faces”. These are the same people who never, ever see straight relationships as shoving anything anywhere (ahem), even if they are otherwise completely unnecessary to the plot.

    In other words, no one here seems terribly upset that Grover has a girlfriend or that Miss Piggy’s sexuality is actually in everyone’s face in precisely the way we’re always told Teh Gayz are making everyone pay attention to theirs.

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      • Agreed. My thesis is still something like “it’s really hard to get this right”.

        Have you ever watched “Skins” (the British version)? It has one of the least artificial portrayals of a gay character I think I’ve ever seen. (Although it’s arguable the portrayal of every character on the show is so artificial that the gayness of one of them is relatively innocuous.)

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        • “Have you ever watched “Skins” (the British version)? It has one of the least artificial portrayals of a gay character I think I’ve ever seen. ”

          I’d be interested to see that.

          I remember when Will & Grace was on, and the character that always got credit for being authentically gay from straight people I knew (Will’s friend, I think… I’ve only seen it a few times) was the one character on the entire show that was entirely unlike any gay person I had ever met, and was more like the way guys in my high school that were making fun of gay people acted.

          I’d like to see an authentic gay character a decade later, and from outside the US. I’m guessing we’ve come a long way.

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