TNB Night Owl – Evil Bert

Bert from Sesame Street. Image by Bert Official Twitter.

Some jokes take on a life of their own.

In 1997, in the early days of the modern internet, a San Francisco artist named Dino Ignacio decided to play with image editing software.  He incorporated Bert, the Sesame Street muppet, into photographs of famous villains and made a joke argument that Bert was secretly an evil mastermind behind world atrocities.  Of course, Ignacio never made the case that Bert was not a puppet.

The high quality of the work and the sheer ridiculousness of the claim entertained people, and his website became a high-traffic stop on the early days of the world wide web.

Too much traffic, actually.  Ignacio decided that it was costing him more to keep the site alive than he was earning in publicity.  Rather than shut the site down he encouraged others to mirror it.  A number of sites did, and the splitting of the traffic brought his costs down.  And that was the end of the story.

…Until September 11th happened.  There were worldwide condemnations of Osama Bin Laden, but there were also demonstrations in Islamist-run locations showing their support of the terrorists.  In one of those, a prominent demonstrator was holding up their sign with photos of Osama… and there, in the corner, was Bert. 

An image from 1998 had included Bert with the then-comparatively-unknown terrorist.  The web-savvy but unobservant protester had downloaded that image for use in his poster.

Sesame Street’s parent company was displeased with the sudden surge of publicity.  Ignacio took down the site and asked that all mirror sites also be removed.  Some of the images which were originally on the site are seen in this video from Youtube, starting around the 7:10 mark.

Having closed the sites, that was the end of the story.

…at least until September, 2018, when a former Sesame Street writer confirmed to the world that Bert and Ernie were gay, at least when he was writing them.

This came as a surprise to the producers of Sesame Street, who produced a quick denial, pointing out that they were just “best friends”…. which would certainly make sense to Jim Henson and Frank Oz, the original voice actors for the puppets, as their relationship was reportedly used as the template for the characters.

Nevertheless, the characters have officially been declared gay by one of their writers, and that is enough for many.  And it has caused the latest twist in the Bert is Evil saga…

…because now Bert is Evil is defined in places like the popular online web site Urban Dictionary as a homophobic attack.  

Which has to greatly confuse the San Francisco art community which spawned it.

Question of the night: What’s your favorite children’s show?

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.