Interesting Ideas

Bert my hero

I can't help but talk about Bert.

His celebrity is subcultural, extending not far beyond Sesame Street's boundaries, but those boundaries encompass millions of kids for whom Bert is the archetypal dweeb. And what a geek he is: Timid, whiny, ungainly and way hung up. He's the perfect image of who I think I am.

Sesame Street Bert with a beard

Bert's narrow-minded rationalism blinds him to truths that Ernie, never troubled by logic, sees without trying. His analytic conformism makes him stick out. His weird hobbies (collecting paper clips and bottle caps) demonstrate not only the patheticism of acquisitiveness, but also an absorption in marginalia that is geekdom's defining feature.

Bert's steadfast belief in his own probity invariably cedes the moral high ground to Ernie. Self-righteousness flails in the face of carelessness; Bert is invariably correct, but Ernie is always right.

The Ernie's of the world show that irresponsibility only makes you more desirable, while Bert teaches it's OK to dump on people who ask for it. His Primitive Sesame Street Bert painting Primitive Sesame Street Bert painting self-imposed vulnerability leaves Ernie no choice but to tease.

Still, unlike Big Bird, whose function is to teach tolerance of obnoxious jerks, Bert's shrill frailty does not isolate him socially -- he's Ernie's best friend, after all. And there is a related lesson here: As Bill Gates shows, being a dork does not necessarily preclude success in this code-ridden world.

But Bill and Bert also should show real-life dweebs that as they pursue petty virtue and self-absorbed excellence, they had better be prepared for the contempt that inevitably will be mixed with any awe they inspire.

Well, that's not really all that much, but it's my Bert.

Check out other people's Berts at:

  • The Evil Bert Drag Race
  • Fark's Photoshop Evil Bert into action movies contest.
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