At least one state has put its foot down when it comes to the fictional depiction of a gay rat marrying his aardvark partner.
Alabama Public Television has chosen not to air the season 22 premiere of the hit kids show Arthur, NBC News reports. The episode titled “Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone,” shows Arthur’s teacher Mr. Ratburn marrying an aardvark named Patrick.
According to Mike McKenzie, Alabama Public Television’s director of programming, stations were alerted in mid-April that the Arthur premiere would have content that could raise possible viewer concerns. After McKenzie and others viewed the episode, they chose not to air it.
“Parents have trusted Alabama Public Television for more than 50 years to provide children’s programs that entertain, educate and inspire,” McKenzie said in a statement to NBC News. “More importantly — although we strongly encourage parents to watch television with their children and talk about what they have learned afterwards — parents trust that their children can watch APT without their supervision. We also know that children who are younger than the ‘target’ audience for Arthur also watch the program.”
McKenzie also said that airing the show would take parents’ choice away if they felt it was inappropriate.
“The vast majority of parents will not have heard about the content, whether they agree with it or not,” he said. “Because of this, we felt it would be a violation of trust to broadcast the episode.”
Since the airing of the episode, several right-wing pundits have come out against the show, including radio host Sebastian Gorka, who said Arthur was trying to change the idea of the family unit — which, like, yeah, that’s the point!
“Did you have any questions about there being a culture war, ladies and gentlemen?” Gorga asked rhetorically. “Did you have any doubt in your mind?” Gorka proclaimed that the episode was a sign that “this is a war for our culture.”
Franklin Graham, the right-wing preacher who recently said that Pete Buttigieg would face “eternal damnation” for his sexuality also weighed in on the episode on his Facebook page. He said the series was “promoting the LGBTQ agenda.”
“Why should our government be financing programming that promotes behavior the Bible says is sinful?” Graham said. “I sure don’t want my tax dollars going toward that. I think many viewers may be surprised and disappointed in this content decision. I hope everyone will rise up and clearly tell PBS that they do not want to see this kind of programming slipped in to try to influence the hearts and minds of our children and grandchildren.”
In 2005, PBS pulled an episode of the Arthur spinoff Postcards from Buster in which Buster visited a family with lesbian mothers. Former education secretary Margaret Spellings asked PBS to pull the episode because it featured a same-sex couple. Arthur creator Marc Brown said he was “disappointed” by PBS’s decision to comply with Spellings’ request.
“What we are trying to do in the series is connect kids with other kids by reflecting their lives,” Brown said. “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.”