Best Friends?

When I ran across a blurb on this yesterday, I wasn’t sure if it was legit.  But apparently it is, so I’ll weigh in.  There’s a petition afoot to have Sesame Street make Bert & Ernie get married.  The petition states that it can be done in a “tasteful way”.  

It’s tempting to take offense at this, and there are certainly plenty of good reasons for it.  On one level it’s another brazen effort to indoctrinate young children in the arena of sexuality and sexual norms.  Rather interesting, given the show’s overall non-sexual nature (Katy Perry guest appearances not withstanding).  I’m assuming however, that those pushing for this change in the show’s characters are seeking equal representation (there are heterosexual married humans on the show, though I’m pretty certain this is never an emphasis of the show!).  
On another level, it’s a reminder of how hyper-sexualized we are as a culture.  Any relationship between two people can be suspect of being sexual – or must at least hold sexual possibilities (along the lines of the ‘friends with benefits’ theme explored in yet another movie).  Any close relationship between two people regardless of gender is fair game for innuendo and smirking.  Or for being co-opted into a sexual relationship for marketing purposes.  This is what we’re taught in our culture.
It’s sick, until you realize how steeped in this we all are – even those of us who recognize it and fight against it.  I was with some buddies a few nights ago and we were discussing someone we all know who is a very eligible single person – gainfully employed, educated, professional, etc. – who we have not seen in any sort of romantic relationship.  And after a few beers or glasses of wine, there were the inevitable snickerings and musings as to this person’s sexual orientation.  After all, if you’re a normal person (whatever that means), you ought to be married (or at least divorced) by a certain age assuming you don’t have some sort of mitigating circumstances.  If you aren’t, perhaps you’re gay, right?  
No, not right.
The idea that someone could be good, platonic friends with someone else ought to be a basic one.  And at least for Biblical Christians, the idea that someone could choose to remain single without it meaning that they’re in some way gay or sexually confused ought to be a basic one as well.  After all, St. Paul has some firm ideas about the benefits of the single life in the focus and freedom it can afford someone for sharing the Gospel (1Corinthians 7:6-9, 32-35).  The Bible affirms the validity of both married heterosexual relationships as well as the single life.  Yet culturally we’ve been tweaked to assume that anyone who doesn’t marry or publicly date must be gay or have something wrong with them.
A statement from Sesame Street clarifies that Bert and Ernie (who share a bedroom but not a bed) were created to teach children that people who are very different can get along.  At the same time, the pair serves as a powerful example that people can be very close without being sexual, and that people can remain single and good friends without it meaning that they’re sexually involved or attracted to each other.  
Which is a lot for a couple of puppets to convey to 4-year olds.  Maybe more of us should be watching to be reminded of these simple and timeless truths.

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