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PBS Accused of 'Brainwashing' Kids After 'Arthur' Features a Gay Wedding

05-14-2019
(Image credit: PBS)
(Image credit: PBS)

The animated PBS television series "Arthur" premiered the first episode of its 22nd season Monday, and to the surprise of some viewers, it was revealed that Arthur's teacher Mr. Ratburn is gay.

In the premiere titled "Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone," Arthur and his friends attend their teacher's wedding. The group thinks that their teacher is marrying female rat, Patty, until they realize she's his sister, according to Entertainment Weekly

Then Arthur's friend Muffy asks "Who is Mr. Ratburn marrying?" That's when the group sees their teacher walking down the aisle next to another man. 

Later, Arthur and his pals briefly discuss the wedding, and Francine tells her friends, "'Yep, it's a brand new world' — perhaps a nod to the changing cultural times," according to People Magazine.

The word "gay" was not used in the episode. 

This is not the first time the cartoon series has featured a gay character.  In a 2005 episode from the spinoff series "Postcards from Buster," Arthur's best friend meets several children who have two moms while on a trip to Vermont, TV Line reports.

The word "lesbian" was not used in the episode.  PBS later pulled the episode after receiving a letter from Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings condemning the episode and asking PBS to "strongly consider" returning the federal money that went toward its production.

People Magazine reported viewers' reaction on the Internet was swift with comments from several parents.

"#Arthur is a kids show that tackles a lot of serious issues, which is a good thing. But now, their {sic} going a little too far with it. #PBS," one Twitter user noted.

Another viewer expressed confusion as to why a gay character was needed on a children's show.

"OK so apparently Mr. Ratburn from Arthur is gay…. That's cool and all but why? It's a kids show, it doesn't exactly 'need' an openly gay character," wrote one user. "Don't get me wrong, I respect the LGBTQ+ community. I just don't understand why so many TV characters are gay these days. #Ally"

The TV Line website so far has received 145 comments on their story about Mr. Ratburn.

Although some users favored the episode showing LGBTQ characters, one user in particular called out PBS.

"It's not up to PBS to brainwash/recruit children. The gay community is in the vast minority. One wouldn't know it though between tv, movies, commercials, etc. The Gay Mafia is out in full force," that user wrote. 

In a statement to People Magazine, PBS wrote: "PBS KIDS programs are designed to reflect the diversity of communities across the nation. We believe it is important to represent the wide array of adults in the lives of children who look to PBS KIDS every day," the network stated.

The television series is based on the Arthur Adventure book series, written and illustrated by Marc Brown.  It has aired by PBS since October 10, 1996, and is the second-longest running animated series in the US, behind The Simpsons, according to the IMDb website.

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