To clarify, open and honest communication is the norm on Sesame Street. There, verbal put-downs are the exception rather than the rule, indulged in by Oscar the Grouch if at all. What I was trying to say is that open and honest communication about feelings among boys or men or male characters is less visible in American culture at large.
Take, for example, the following passage from The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, in which the 14-year-old male protagonist is having an e-mail conversation with his best friend, also a 14-year-old male:
"We'll kick your asses [in basketball] next year," Rowdy wrote back. "And you'll cry like the little faggot you are."If my calculations are correct, repetitions of the word "faggot" account for 5% of that passage.
"I might be a faggot," I wrote back, "but I'm the faggot who beat you."
"Ha-ha," Rowdy wrote.
Now that might just sound like a series of homophobic insults, but I think it was a little bit friendly and it was the first time that Rowdy had talked to me since I left the rez.
I was a happy faggot!"
I'm not criticizing Alexie, who is a well-respected writer and is just writing what he knows. I just think it's sad that this is the way that we teach boys and men in particular to communicate in our culture. And when a show like Sesame Street with characters like Bert & Ernie try to introduce a different paradigm, there is a backlash and people actively try to discredit them; that's the saddest thing of all.