Frank Oz is a show business legend, but even he can’t stand tall against the PC police.
The man who brought Bert, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear and more to life weighed in on the pressing issue of our age recently.
Are Bert and Ernie of “Sesame Street” fame gay?
A “Sesame Street” writer, a gay man named Mark Saltzman who worked on “Sesame Street” during the ’80s, argued the characters represented a gay couple.
“I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert & Ernie, they were,” Saltzman said. “So I don’t think I’d know how else to write them, but as a loving couple.”
Team Sesame Street quickly stepped in.
“As we have always said, Bert and Ernie are best friends,” Sesame Workshop said. “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.”
Oz co-created Bert with Jim Henson – not the physical puppet, of course – many years ago. So it seemed natural for Oz to weigh in following the dueling statements.
It seems Mr. Mark Saltzman was asked if Bert & Ernie are gay. It’s fine that he feels they are. They’re not, of course. But why that question? Does it really matter? Why the need to define people as only gay? There’s much more to a human being than just straightness or gayness.
— Frank Oz (@TheFrankOzJam) September 18, 2018
That’s a reasonable answer on multiple levels. Still the issue wouldn’t die despite those clarifications. It’s been raging for years, much like the notion that “Die Hard” is/isn’t a Christmas movie.
This week, Oz added something new to the Bert and Ernie debate.
A last thought: If Jim and I had created B & E as gay characters they would be inauthentic coming from two straight men. However, I have now learned that many view them as representative of a loving gay relationship. And that’s pretty wonderful. Thanks for helping me understand.
— Frank Oz (@TheFrankOzJam) September 28, 2018
That’s both a “leave me alone, PC Police” plea as well as an insult to the creative process.
A recent, disturbing trend suggests storytellers can’t spin yarns outside of their cultural experiences. Now female superhero movies must be directed by women. Films featuring trans characters must be portrayed by trans actors – even if it threatens the project’s existence.
Writers, the Left argues, simply cannot tell another culture’s story authentically. It’s both “inauthentic” and cultural appropriation.
It’s rubbish, of course.
Yes, women and minorities haven’t had the same opportunities in Hollywood that straight white males have enjoyed for decades. It’s still a troubling sentiment to limit the tales being told by modern storytellers.
Writers have been creating characters outside of their own life experiences for centuries. Men have written profound female characters. Women have done the same for male figures. For years, actresses flocked to appear in Woody Allen movies.
Few auteurs wrote richer, more sophisticated female roles than Allen.
To deny an artist’s right to share their stories is to cripple the creative impulse. It’s a writer’s duty to do his or her homework, of course. If Steven Spielberg jumped into a project on Native American culture, he’d be remiss if his team didn’t perform copious research to nail the culture in question.
The vast majority of artists do just that.
Taylor Sheridan (“Hell or High Water”) successfully left acting behind to become a top-flight screenwriter. His movies capture the lives of people unlike himself, and he commits fully to studying other cultures along the way.
Not only does that yield remarkable fiction, it opens him up to new experiences. Sheridan, like his artistic peers, emerge as more well rounded people.
It sounds silly to argue whether a straight puppeteer like Oz could make bring a gay puppet to life. Oz’s flippant rationale for Bert and Ernie’s asexual presentation is still worth debunking.