New Yorker’s ‘Sesame Street’ cover draws mixed reactions

Mike Krumboltz
The Lookout

New Yorker cover featuring Bert and Ernie (art: Jack Hunter)
New Yorker cover featuring Bert and Ernie (art: Jack Hunter)

The Supreme Court's decision to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act has resulted in one of the New Yorker's more memorable covers.

On it, Sesame Street residents Bert and Ernie cuddle on the couch while watching the announcement on television.

Of course, the rumors of Bert and Ernie being more than roommates is nothing new (more on that later). But neither, it seems, is the artwork on the New Yorker's cover.

The magazine acknowledged that the drawing was first uploaded to the Web over a year ago by artist Jack Hunter. Hunter posted the artwork on a Tumblr blog in May 2012. Gawker has the two pieces of art, side by side.

The main difference between the original work and the one on the New Yorker is what Bert and Ernie are watching on TV. In the original piece, the pals are watching President Barack Obama (May 2012 was when Obama announced that he was in support of same-sex marriage).

But why are Bert and Ernie still being used as symbols of the gay rights movement?'s June Thomas criticized the New Yorker for its cover, not because it's old, but because Bert and Ernie are not gay. Thomas cites a 2011 comment from the Children's Television Workshop, which states that Bert and Ernie are "best friends" and do not have a sexual orientation.

Here is part of Thomas' reaction to the New Yorker cover:

You see, straight America, there’s a difference between same-sex friends and gay lovers. Does America contain households in which lovers pass themselves off as best pals? No doubt. And as prejudice against gays and lesbians fades, more of these ambiguously gay couples will declare themselves. But that doesn’t mean that every pair of cohabiting friends is madly making out on a nightly basis.

The blog Flavorwire had a similar response, calling the cover "infantilizing and offensive."

Here is Flavorwire writer Tyler Coates' reaction:

First of all, the notion that Bert and Ernie are gay lovers is ridiculous, and the propagation of the narrative is a childish statement that says more about the sexually obsessed and slightly homophobic tendencies of our culture. Homophobic? Absolutely: it’s a continuation of the idea that sexuality affects personality as much as it speaks of our obsession with outing the private lives of public individuals — in this case fictional characters that most of us grew up with.

Reactions to the New Yorker cover on Twitter were mixed. Some of the negative:

And the positive: