When the children’s television show Arthur made headlines last week for an episode in which the beloved teacher Mr. Ratburn marries his male aardvark partner, Alabama viewers saw only a rerun of an old episode.
In a statement to AL.com, Alabama Public Television director of programming Mike Mckenzie said PBS notified APT in April about the episode, called “Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone.”
“Parents have trusted Alabama Public Television for more than 50 years to provide children’s programs that entertain, educate and inspire,” Mckenzie said in the statement. “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.”
The episode, in which Mr. Ratburn marries a local chocolatier named Patrick, garnered widespread praise on social media and from LGBTQ rights groups. And while many expressed more surprise over learning that Arthur, which aired its first episode in 1996, was still producing episodes, a small number of Christian and conservative groups protested. American Family Association’s subgroup One Million Moms started a petition to get PBS to pull the episode, and evangelist Franklin Graham said the children’s show was promoting a “sinful” LGBTQ “agenda.” Sebastian Gorka, the former Breitbart editor and White House aide, ranted about the episode on his radio show. “This is a war for our culture,” Gorka said. “Civil society doesn’t exist, friendship doesn’t exist, family doesn’t exist.”
According to AL.com, it’s not the first time APT has balked at an episode of Arthur. In 2005, the network refused to air an episode in which a bunny character named Buster visited a girl with two mothers. Back then, an APT spokesman gave a similar statement: “Our feeling is that we basically have a trust with parents about our programming. This program doesn’t fit into that.”
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