The speculation over the relationship between Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie is nothing new. For years (and years and years) the odd couple BFFs have been rumored or just assumed by many to be partners in more than just spelling and vocabulary exercises. Of course, because people are terrible, this assumed relationship has often taken the form of a joke. But it’s also been treated tenderly by many, and has had the power to be a strong, if unspoken, model of gay pride on television.
Given this widespread headcanon, Bert and Ernie seemed like the perfect faces for Mately, a company making at-home HIV/STD test kits (and whose marketing looks to be primarily aimed towards gay men). So the company put out this cheeky, if undeniably bleak, ad featuring the couple:
I don’t think anyone here will be surprised to learn that Sesame Workshop is VERY NOT OKAY with this ad. In a statement to TMZ, the company said,
The Mately ad is an unauthorized, unlicensed use of our characters. We will be contacting Mately and the appropriate parties with a cease and desist letter instructing them to take this down.
Sesame Workshop has always denied this pairing. I appreciate that the company hasn’t ever (as far as I’ve seen) actually said Bert and Ernie are straight, though. Instead, they emphasize that they’re not even really human. Here’s a statement the Workshop put out a few years ago in which they don’t denounce the possibility of a gay relationship; they deny the possibility of ANY sexuality.
Mately has taken the ad down and said they never meant to “tarnish the Sesame Street brand.”