About That Bert and Ernie New Yorker Cover…

The New Yorker decided to celebrate gay marriage’s (limited) Supreme Court victory with a cover illustrating its signature brand of humor—the kind that inspires quiet chuckles from its readers and confuses or frustrates everyone else.

Everyone’s joked about Bert and Ernie’s “domestic partnership” for some time (along with the fact that Bert is the biggest bad guy since the Wicked Witch), but as a preview of this week’s cover made its way around the blogosphere, quite a few media observers asked “why?”—and a surprising number of people beyond the usual crowd took offense.

Here go the arguments:

Some activists who’ve been working a long time to achieve legal equality think this depiction trivializes their struggles. Others say that using the characters forces children to consider sexuality at an age when it just isn’t appropriate, to which we respond: do you know any children who read The New Yorker? Neither do we. We’ve also read a few arguments faulting the magazine for using someone else’s creations without proper attribution. And of course there are still plenty of people who just can’t handle the whole idea of the thing, man.

Based on the related blog post’s comment section, we can say: don’t read the comments on anything ever. You’re welcome. Also:

  1. This cover led to more media exposure than usual for the magazine. People who obviously don’t read it still felt the need to comment, and that’s almost always good.
  2. Some folks will never, ever get over thinking “gays are icky.”

Our response? It’s pretty obvious that Bert and Ernie are supposed to be gay—and it’s a clever take on the story, but we don’t see what all the fuss is about. Don’t tell anyone, but we usually skip the cartoons.

What do you think? Is all this attention good for the magazine—and should more publications aim for this kind of subtle controversy?

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