In honor of this week's Supreme Court decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, The New Yorker selected a sweet, seemingly innocent cover featuring Bert and Ernie, the beloved but "not gay" gay icons from Sesame Street, which has stirred up an Internet reaction that is completely overblown but altogether revealing. Clearly the couch-potato image of Bert and his long-time roommate have unleashed some deeper emotions that were hiding in the pundit cage in the days following the Court's rulings on Wednesday. This furor over a magazine cover picked up from some guy's Tumblr must mean something, right? Right? We investigate the Friday psychosis of a historic week.
Homophobes: We Haven't Lost Yet
The Response: A reader emails, based on our initial post about the cover: "Why do we have to make everything into some homosexual issue!? Enough is enough! The homosexual community is less than six percent of our population (from best estimates I have read), but they take up so much of social issues. If this continues regardless of the law, there is going to be a back lash from the general public. Opinions change. In 40 years from now it could easily go backwards."
Bert and Ernie together on the cover symbolizes everything wrong with America — for now. Pro-gay marriage liberal freaks can't even leave children out of their sick sex issues. (Because so many kids read The New Yorker?) As another Atlantic Wire commenter put it (a little more bluntly), the image is a "picture perfect symbol of perverts trying to reach our children with this sickness at a very early age." That same sentiment is reflected over at The National Review, which had such a hard time dealing with Court's decisions earlier this week that it's just going with the photo and a simple headline — "Innocence. Lost." — as if to suggest that the gays will indoctrinate our innocent babies. Or something.
What It Really Means: The subtext here is that these people still find your lifestyle disgusting, and as our reader Bobby Mota notes, "it could easily go backwards." Remember what happened after Reconstruction? (Hint: Jim Crow.) Homophobes are still homophobic and will always be homophobic, no matter what Anthony Kennedy says.
The New Yorker Isn't Taking Us Seriously Enough
The Reaction: On the other side of the issue, gay marriage advocates find the cover "offensive" and a "terrible way to commemorate a civil rights victory" because... puppets. "Bert and Ernie clearly love each other. But does Ernie suck Bert's cock? I don't think so," writes June Thomas in an epic Slate post if there ever was one. As Sesame Street has itself noted, Bert and Ernie are just roommates who live together: They can't have sex, and they aren't gay. So, the cover doesn't make sense and is homophobic in and of itself, apparently. "The propagation of the narrative is a childish statement that says more about the sexually obsessed and slightly homophobic tendencies of our culture," writes Flavorwire's Tyler Coates. Two dudes living together don't have to be gay, dude.
What It Really Means: Okay, so it's not really the puppets. As Thomas concedes, at the end of her screed, Bert and Ernie are gay icons: "(All that said, whoever goes to Pride this weekend dressed as Bert and Ernie is going to gay heaven.)" This is about being taken seriously by the high-minded, high-brow New Yorker magazine. The gay marriage cause deserves better than puppets, people, like the faces of the plaintiffs in the DOMA and Proposition 8 cases, suggests Coates . (To be fair: The New Yorker has had out a bunch of other less juvenile gay covers.)
Um, The New Yorker Is Getting All the Attention
The Reaction: The New Yorker is just trolling.
That cover is pandering to memes. It wouldn't have happened pre-Twitter— Farhad Manjoo (@fmanjoo) June 28, 2013
New Yorker "Bert and Ernie" cover: Please read our magazine. PLEEEEEEEEEASE!!!!!!1!— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) June 28, 2013
At FlavorWire, Coates implies the same, writing that The New Yorker's "primary goal is to sell copies of a magazine" — which, obviously — while calling the cover image "conveniently cheap and cloying." Bert and Ernie are a contentious topic: Remember how riled up everyone got when people wanted the Sesame Street characters to get married? The New Yorker — surely not a stranger to the art of trolling by way of Barry Blitt — knew that the this would spark conversation, and that's why they did it. The magazine even put together a click-baiting slide show of it other gay marriage covers. But, you know, this magazine also kind of invented the high-minded political cartoon as a conversation-starting form.
What It Really Means: This kind of complaining is a very ugly sign of jealousy. It's difficult when nobody is clicking on your think piece about what DOMA means and passing around something posted on Tumblr instead. But let's all relax a little, shall we? Maybe take some time on the couch to reflect on a big week, maybe with your cat:
19 Cats Who Think Your Critical Essay On The Bert And Ernie Cover Takes Itself Too Seriously— pourmecoffee (@pourmecoffee) June 28, 2013
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.