The new cover of The New Yorker rejoices over the overturn of DOMA with artist Jack Hunter’s painting that depicts the more personal and private relationship of Bert & Ernie as they cuddle on a sofa and watch the Supreme Court Justices on an old television set.
At first I found Hunter’s painting creative and absolutely adorable. Initially, I felt that he met his intention of showing “how a lot of gay couples must have felt hearing Obama’s comments” through this cozy scene between Bert & Ernie. After looking at it for a few more seconds, I just kept on thinking how cute this cartoon drawing was, but that was all Hunter’s piece did for me; it just made me gush at the precious Bert & Ernie that I grew up with on Sesame Street and evoked feelings of nostalgia.
Thus, I begin to think does Hunter’s work truly represent how “a lot of gay couples” felt after learning about the overturn of DOMA? I have no doubt that Hunter’s painting is clever, and that he was sincere in trying to elicit the joy and love that many experienced when they received news of the overturn. However, the cartoonish figures of Bert & Ernie, who are obviously fictional characters and whose relationship is never made explicit on the show (it is just mere speculation that they have been more than friends), began to seem a distance and unrealistic portrayal of real gay couples, who are more than puppets and whose relationship is more than just a speculation.
I became even more convinced that Hunter’s painting, though charming and genuine, is not evocative of this very historic and significant moment for so many people since it is just a silly yet cute painting of two famous puppets. I wondered if The New Yorker chose this piece of art with the fictional characters of Bert & Ernie to avoid showing a vivid, realistic, and powerful picture of two gay men, who are actually real people. Did the media defer to using this discreet and inconspicuous picture, in which the fictional Bert & Ernie have their backs towards the viewer and are not even the focal point of the piece, in order to evade a more explicit and realistic picture of two gay human beings in a romantic setting? Furthermore, Hunter’s painting does not clearly show the romance between Bert & Ernie as dark shading obscures their contact with one another. They are puppets! Is it too provocative to show romance between two puppets in broad daylight?
When reading Stewart’s “Bert and Ernie Snuggle on The New Yorker’s ‘Moment of Joy’ Cover I was further confirmed by my thoughts when someone commented that the fact that it did not show “HUMAN GAY MEN sharing a beautiful moment” hinted at “the media’s reticence to depict gay men in a romantic light.” I am not blaming Jack Hunter’s painting that is of course adorable and creative. I just wish that The New Yorker would of showed an actual gay couple sharing this vital moment and historic landmark instead of puppets.