The longest-running children’s animated series in the US, and countless meme-generator Arthur started its 22nd season on Monday, May 13.
The show is loved by both children and parents thanks to its relevant story lines, tackling real-life issues and family life.
The latest season is no different, and its premiere episode kicked off the season with a reveal for one of the series’ most well-loved characters – Arthur’s teacher, Mr. Ratburn.
The episode, titled Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone, sees the kids surprised when they find out Mr. Ratburn is engaged. As all children do, Arthur and his friends find it difficult to believe their teacher has a life outside of school.
When they see Mr. Ratburn talking to a bossy woman, they think she will make him miserable, and decide to try and sabotage the wedding. However, arriving at the ceremony they see that the woman was just his sister, and Mr. Ratburn is actually very happy with his new husband.
MR RATBURN IS GAY HELLO !! HE GOT MARRIED !! pic.twitter.com/T1Emc97Y0f
— EIGHTH WONDER (@WOLFNOlR) May 13, 2019
It’s not the first time PBS has introduced LGBTQ characters in their cartoons, however it is the first time one has been officially aired.
In 2005, the network made an episode of Arthur spinoff Postcards from Buster, in which Buster visited a family with lesbian mothers. However, before it aired, former education secretary Margaret Spellings, during George W. Bush’s presidency, told PBS to pull the episode out of fear children would be exposed to gay characters.
Creator of the cartoon, Marc Brown, said at the time he was ‘disappointed’ by the network’s decision to comply with Spellings’ request, as Out reports.
Marc said at the time:
What we are trying to do in the series is connect kids with other kids by reflecting their lives. In some episodes, as in the Vermont one, we are validating children who are seldom validated. We believe that ‘Postcards From Buster’ does this in a very natural way — and, as always, from the point of view of children.
Other PBS programmes have also been widening their inclusivity reach in recent years, in a bid to not just reflect the LGBTQ community, but to highlight themes that people will recognise in their own community.
Sesame Street, for example, brought its first ever autistic puppet, Julia, to the show in 2017. While the character Lily, who originally appeared on the show in 2011, was the first homeless puppet, and raised awareness of homelessness and ‘food insecurity’.
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