One of PBS’ most popular cartoons for children is stirring controversy by showing one of its characters in a same-sex marriage ceremony.
“Arthur,” the beloved PBS cartoon aimed at kids from five to eight years old, featured the gay wedding in the season premiere that aired Monday afternoon.
The cartoon follows Arthur Read, an aardvark who loves to read books and go to school. The show just began its 22nd season Monday, having premiered on October 10, 1996. It ranks behind “The Simpsons” as the second-longest running animated show on television.
On Monday’s season premiere, Arthur’s teacher Mr. Ratburn, who has appeared in the cartoon since the beginning, revealed that he was gay and getting married. The episode, titled “Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone,” revolved around Arthur and his friends attending Mr. Ratburn’s wedding, and thinking that he was marrying a female rat named Patty, voiced by actress Jane Lynch, who is an outspoken gay activist.
The students then learn that Patty is actually Mr. Ratburn’s sister, and at the wedding, they discover who he is actually marrying: a male aardvark.
All of Mr. Ratburn’s students attend the wedding, and based on their reactions (as seen in the clip below), all seem to approve.
Later, while discussing the wedding, one of Arthur’s friends remarks that it is a “whole new world,” seemingly referencing the change in culture the cartoon is reflecting.
PBS released a statement on the episode Monday afternoon. “PBS KIDS programs are designed to reflect the diversity of communities across the nation,” the network said. “We believe it is important to represent the wide array of adults in the lives of children who look to PBS KIDS every day.”
This isn’t the first time PBS and “Arthur” have waded into gay activism for kids. In 2005, an “Arthur” spinoff called “Postcards from Buster” featured a lesbian couple. PBS pulled the episode from airing after then-Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings protested. “Arthur” and PBS receive taxpayer funds to produce their programming, and the Bush administration disapproved of tax money funding the program. Some PBS stations did air the episode, however.
Here is a clip from the episode, featuring the gay wedding. The actual exchanging of vows was not shown; only the grooms walking down the aisle and the reception were shown.
Mr. Ratburn is the gay icon I never knew I needed pic.twitter.com/wp4o5TLr1p
— Andrea Cee (@extraspicee) May 13, 2019
Gay rights supporters hailed the episode as a step forward for gay culture.
a BIG congratulations to mr. ratburn on his wedding. truly a legend 🥰 pic.twitter.com/CFImaZTRZO
— lulu ⎊ saw endgame x3 (@Iokiis) May 14, 2019
Others celebrated the fact that the characters on the show were accepting of the lifestyle. “Mr. Ratburn from “Arthur” is gay,” one Twitter user remarked. “Do you know how amazing it is that someone who’s been on the show from the start, someone who’s a main character, is openly gay and getting married on a kids show? PBS Kids really is that bitch. Plus, all his students are at his wedding!”
PSA: Mr. Ratburn from "Arthur" is gay. Do you know how amazing it is that someone who's been on the show from the start, someone who's a main character, is openly gay and getting married on a kids show? PBS Kids really is that bitch.
Plus, all his students are at his wedding! :') pic.twitter.com/aaxGwTE9is
— osmosis jones (@keeothrama) May 13, 2019
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