Can you tell me how to get…a little more queer?
Back in October, the LA Times published a piece by Melissa Maerz discussing the gay-friendly vibe some viewers were getting from Sesame Street. Well I’m here to tell you, I don’t just see a gay-friendly vibe. I see a queer-friendly one too.
I’m an old-school Street viewer. Born in 1968, I watched the show religiously as a preschool- and elementary-school-aged child after it premiered a few months after my first birthday. I was such an avid watcher that in 1985, when Mr. Snuffleupagus was finally revealed to the adults on the show as an actual being and not Big Bird’s imaginary friend, my then-high-school-senior self, who hadn’t watched the show in almost a decade, got pissed that I missed the big event. Thanks to YouTube and DVDs, I finally got to see the moment years later. I took advantage of having preschool-aged twins to have an excuse to start watching the show again 40+ years after its premier. It’s more entertaining and enlightening now than when I watched as a child. I really appreciate the adult humor (not that kind of adult) that makes it really enjoyable to watch. I’ve tried watching other children’s shows; none of them come close to the Street.
Most people and viewers focus on Bert and Ernie when it comes to looking for “the gay. Gay rumors about Bert and Ernie have been circulating around for three decades now. Frankly, I feel that Bert and Ernie are just a beard, so to speak, for the other more obvious things shown and discussed on the show. Elmo’s World shows two gay dads with their child along with all other types of family groups on the topic of “Families. Lesbian moms show up on a “Word on the Street segment. Of course there are the out celebrities that show up on the show too: Wanda Sykes, Neil Patrick Harris, Ellen DeGeneres, Harvey Fierstein singing “Everything’s Coming Up Noses, and even this season Cookie Monster singing “It’s Raining Cookies, a parody of the gay anthem “It’s Raining Men. One of the male fairies in Abby’s Flying Fairy School (heh) has to wake another fairy with a kiss (on the forehead) because he took a bite out of Snow White’s poison apple.
But Marlo, you say, the Street has teh gay, but what about teh queer?
In a recap segment of the “Word on the Street where Elmo and Terrence Howard discuss the word “incognito, the example they use to define it is a chicken in male drag and a pig in female drag. The thing that makes it exceptional is that Terrence specifically mentions the gender of the chicken (“she) and the pig (“he). The fact that they’re in drag isn’t played up for laughs, either. It just is. I admit that I wish that their outfits weren’t considered disguises, but for a preschool show, I was pretty pleased to see it.
The other more direct event was in Abby’s Flying Fairy School. For the “Cinderella Challenge, one the three student fairies has to play Cinderella. One of the male fairies, BlÃ¶gg, states that since Abby is a girl, she should play Cinderella. Abby objects by complaining that Cinderella doesn’t get to do any magic. The teacher, Mrs. Sparklenose, decides to choose their Cinderella using Eenie Meenie. BlÃ¶gg gets picked. Despite a slight groan of protest, he actually gets into it. He happily wears the gown, he nixes wearing lace-up shoes with it because it would be “a fashion faux pas, and he gets to ride to the ball on a motorcycle (you see the class pet ate the pumpkin they were gonna use and¦oh nevermind). If that doesn’t scream queer to you my friends, I don’t know what does.
Keep in mind that first and foremost this is a show for a preschool audience, so don’t expect any college-level queer theory here, but the nods and winks that are woven in the show make me proud to watch it with my twins.