An episode of the children’s cartoon show “Arthur” recently sparked controversy after Alabama Public Television refused to air it. In “Mr. Ratburn & the Special Someone,” Arthur’s teacher, a male, marries another man.
The episode created a wave of controversy, and soon made headlines across the nation.
— The Hill (@thehill) May 21, 2019
Thinking a kids’ show couldn’t be bad enough to pull, I decided to watch it.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
In the course of the episode, Arthur and friends discover Mr. Ratburn is getting married. Soon, they spot their teacher and a lady they believe to be his fiancée.
She appears to be a cruel and demanding woman, ordering tea at a diner and immediately sending it back for being unsatisfactory.
After a quick deliberation, Ratburn’s students decide to stop the wedding. Despite a failed attempt at convincing Ratburn’s “fiancée” that the teacher is a bongo-drum-playing hippy, the kids continue on to plan B: sparking a romance between their teacher and a librarian. Their first stop for materials is a chocolate shop.
As Arthur and a friend near the shop, they pause and look into a candy-filled display. Inside, they are greeted by a man seemingly in love with chocolate. He offers the pair free candy of his own creation, and the kids are blown away by how delicious it is. After the confectioner hears their plan, he sends them on their way with a box of chocolate.
“I hope love wins out,” the man says.
After the children’s plans ultimately fail to get the wedding called off, they decide to show up at the wedding and voice their objections.
There, they discover that the woman thought to be Ratburn’s fiancée is in fact his sister. As their confusion mounts, they turn to see Mr. Ratburn and the man from the chocolate shop walking down the aisle.
The chocolatier gives them a sly wink, and the kids sit down in relief, huge smiles across their faces. The episode closes with everyone enjoying cake as they watch Mr. and Mr. Ratburn dance together.
Take a minute to digest that.
Now, let’s review: Mr. Ratburn’s “special someone” is a jolly chocolatier who literally hands out free chocolate and hopes “love wins.” Arthur and friends, seemingly hellbent on ruining the wedding, make an abrupt about-face after seeing this man walking with their teacher. And then everyone dances and eats cake.
For adults, this is pretty easy to deconstruct. For kids, it may be a little more difficult.
Kids unfamiliar with homosexuality may be exposed to it for the first time through this episode. The setup seems geared, almost weaponized, to make Mr. Ratburn’s “special someone” into an overtly likable character.
Associating him heavily with candy seems almost insidious considering the show’s target audience. And although this isn’t half as bad as much of what’s on television, “Arthur” is supposed to be a children’s show on PBS. If this isn’t safe to leave a young child alone with, then what is?
Maybe this is why the director of programming over at Alabama Public Television said to air this episode would be a “violation of trust.”
After watching the episode, it’s clear that those choosing not to broadcast it made the right decision.
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