Remember the PBS Kids‘ animated series Arthur? Well, we’re at the start of the 22nd season (yes, it has been that long since your childhood) and yet the program continues to evolve with the times for the benefit of its young audience – this time, with the season premiere highlighting the same-sex wedding between teacher Mr. Ratburn and Patrick – the sweet aardvark owner of a chocolate shop.
To be clear, this isn’t a new topic for the Arthur universe: in 2005, spinoff series Postcards from Buster featured lesbian couples in Vermont after the state passed a law granting civil unions to same-sex couples. Well, they tried to air the episode: Vermont’s secretary of education took issue with the episode showing children “alternative couples” and PBS pulled it from air. Still, some local stations aired it anyway – and it also appears in DVD and VHS (???) compilation releases.
In the season premiere “Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone,” Arthur and his classmates find out that Mr. Ratburn is getting married. After overhearing a conversation between him and (who they assume is his fiance) overbearing Patty (special guest Jane Lynch), they fear that she will make him a stricter teacher. To combat this, the kids try to intervene by giving Patty an embarrassing video of Mr. Ratburn. When that fails, they attempt to set him up with the school librarian instead… to no avail.
It’s not until they are all at the wedding that they realize their mistake: Patty is Mr. Ratburn’s older sister, and he is really marrying Patrick: an aardvark and owner of the local artisan chocolate shop. Arthus and his “crew” are left feeling both relieved about their teacher situation and thrilled their teacher is happy.
The entire episode is available on the PBS Kids website (ad free), thanks to the generous support of viewers like you.
The socially educational cartoon staple hasn’t changed much from the last time you probably remember it, though the writers have brilliantly found ways to continually stay in touch with the times and keep storylines and jokes relevant to today’s audiences without pandering to trends or fads.
If you don’t have kids in your life, you might not find yourself watching public educational children’s television – but regardless the audience, the normalization and representation shown by such an esteemed program is a major step in the right direction when it comes to progress.