The New Yorker might be the best magazine in America, and there’s little dispute that they do the best covers. This week’s cover, titled "Moment of Joy," which celebrates the end of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), is subtle and beautiful. We see Bert and Ernie, Sesame Street’s famous odd couple, snuggling on a couch while they watch television. On the screen: the Supreme Court.
Bert and Ernie have long been an ambiguous couple. It’s not an ambiguity that ever gets resolved in a satisfying way, because they are characters on Sesame Street. Sex doesn’t really come up. They do sleep in separate beds, but they are also two guys who live together and act very coupley. That can happen with friends, but they definitely feel like a couple in how they alternate affection with bickering over random little things. For that reason, they remain one of America’s iconic male-male couples.
The brilliance of the New Yorker cover is that the image creates an entire narrative out of their ambiguous status. They are in love, but can’t ever publicly acknowledge it due to attitudes toward gays in America. They just keep living their publicly asexual lives. But, in the privacy of their home, they can be tender. The end of DOMA means that maybe they can be a little more honest with the world.
There are enough real life Bert and Ernies, some of whom don’t even acknowledge how they feel to each other, to make this image really hit home. America is becoming a more accepting place. And for people who have stuffed their love away where no one can see it, moments like these must be so sweet and cathartic.