If classical thinkers seem overly obsessed with the issue of human sexuality, then progressive thinkers seem deliberately ignorant of human sexuality. This is seen clearly when it comes to gay relationships.
The New Yorker magazine has a new cover that for all intents and purposes plainly portrays two characters long popular in children programming as enjoying each other’s company in a setting that is plainly intimate and more than mere friendship. Given that the Supreme Court just a few days prior to the issue’s publication struck down limits on the legalization of gay marriage, the image of the judges being on the cover makes the message clear. On The New Yorker web site, an article about the new cover openly declares what is presented.
“It’s amazing to witness how attitudes on gay rights have evolved in my lifetime,” said Jack Hunter, the artist behind next week’s cover, “Moment of Joy.” Hunter, who originally submitted his image, unsolicited, to a Tumblr, continued, “This is great for our kids, a moment we can all celebrate.”
Yet, some still refuse to acknowledge the fact.
Then again, in response to an 2011 online petition calling for Bert and Ernie to tie the knot, the Sesame Workshop’s Facebook page offered this statement:
“Bert and Ernie are best friends. 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…they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation.”
That sounds innocuous enough, but the image on the magazine goes beyond the puppets being “good friends” and does in fact present the characters as having a “sexual orientation.” A picture of a teenaged boy and a teenaged girl sitting in a dark room, with the boy wrapping his arm around the girl’s shoulder while she leans on him would be construed as something more than just friendship. The cover of The New York is portraying two male characters in a romantic setting.
Though marriage is being redesigned as a fluid relationship of sentiment and separated from any sexual acts, it is naïve to somehow imagine that couples have a romantic partnership that is platonic (without sex). In real life, affections are driven by emotions and can stir romantic interests and romantic interests can and do easily lead to sexual tension if not sex itself. There is a reason why young, heterosexual couples were once given chaperones.
The problem with this cover is that Bert and Ernie are characters who are primarily aimed at a very young audience. Prepubescent boys will not catch the sexual overtones of Bert and Ernie’s shared affection, but when puberty blooms, practicing the same affection will inevitably spark sexual tension. If young boys have been raised to be affectionate with one another, it is not a stretch to speculate that they will easily discover gay relationships in their teens. This is complicated by the possibility of an older gay male becoming affectionate with a teenaged boy.
Bert and Ernie are unique characters and there seems to be a bit more adulthood in Bert than Ernie. This essentially makes The New Yorker as presenting an imagine of an adult male Bert in a romantic relationship with a teenaged Ernie.
It might be argued that this is all speculation and exacerbation of reality. It might be. However, the fact that Bert and Ernie are the focus on the magazine cover as well as the focus of a petition for them to be openly gay on Sesame Street shows that children will targeted with a message of platonic affection between two men. The realities of how that translates into real life once puberty hits is ignored. Young men with newly ignited sex drives may find social pressure to be gay.