For some reason a bunch of classic Sesame Street clips have been on my YouTube home page. I’m thinking because they’re related to whatever my Grandson was watching.
So I watched a few clips. The very early episodes were actually hilarious.
But watching them reminded me of something: Ernie is a fucking asshole. I remember when I was a kid the show was playing and my Dad commented that Ernie was a horses ass. Watching it as an adult it’s so obvious. He treats Bert like shit. Steals/cons him out of his cookies, fruit, candy, and ice cream. Makes a bunch of noise when Berts trying to read. Doesn’t share cleaning chores or the TV. He screws with Berts head whenever he can. Then he laughs about it. He’s just a complete dick.
So do you think Ernies a dick just because he’s a dick, or is he a dick just to Bert because Bert has a stick up his ass and it’s fun to fuck with people like that?
Setting aside the idea that what was funny in 1969 or 1970 (when Sesame Street premiered) may not be seen as funny today…I think that the Ernie/Bert dynamic is an interesting one. Of the two, Ernie is much more clearly a kid at heart, and is playful and imaginative – kids are probably much more likely to empathize with Ernie. Bert, on the other hand, is picky, rigid, fussy, and boring – he likely comes across to kids as being a lot more like an adult.
I think that a lot of the Ernie and Bert sketches represent the “kid” getting one over on the “adult.” But, that said, you’re right – he often does this through impulsive, and kinda dickish, behavior.
Ernie and Bert were a nod to The Odd Couple, the film of which came out a year before Sesame Street, and the TV show, which premiered the year after Sesame Street, and was in the works at the same time as Sesame Street. Also, I believe the play was still running on Broadway, although it may have taken a break so as not to compete with the film.
Oscar is more than just “kind of” a dick, but that’s the whole point of him. Both characters are unlikable in their own way, but the interplay makes them likeable, because everyone, to an extent, identifies with both, since they represent extremes.
Ernie has no impulse control, and Bert has a stick up his ass. Neither one is likeable by himself; however, as a couple, they are very likeable. We all know someone we want to mess with because it’s so easy, and we all know someone with no impulse control to whom we sometimes want to give a swift kick.
There are plenty of entertainment duos we like as duos, whom we would not like as individuals. Bert and Ernie are not unusual in that respect.
Like many, many things in Sesame Street, there are jokes slipped in for the parents watching that the children would never get. This was one. At present, the parents watching, who were born no earlier than 1981, and probably closer to 1995, have only a vague idea of what The Odd Couple is-- or they think it’s a show with Chandler and the gay sheriff from Reno 911, that failed mightily back when they were in high school.
But Bert and Ernie have taken on a life of their own.