Instinct recently reported that a character on the long-running PBS children’s show, Arthur, was getting married to his male partner.
In an episode titled “Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone,” it turns out that Arthur’s stern yet forgiving 3rd grade teacher is gay, and marries his boyfriend, Patrick.
The storyline was celebrated by LGBTQ advocacy groups like GLAAD:
Congratulations Mr. Ratburn! 🌈🐀https://t.co/8ejkwU1sfU
— GLAAD (@glaad) May 14, 2019
When we wrote about the episode, which doesn’t mention the word “gay” or “homosexual,” we wondered if some folks might be offended or raise their homophobic voices in opposition to two animated characters finding happiness together.
Turns out – we were right.
Alabama Public Television (APT) decided the same-sex wedding was too much for its intended audience to handle, and refused to air the episode. Instead, APT chose to air a re-run.
Yes, this is the same Alabama where public lawmakers just passed a law which will require a 13-year-old rape victim to carry a possible child to term.
Mike McKenzie, the director of programming at APT, confirmed to NBC News that upon receiving an alert from PBS in mid-April about “possible concerns about the content of the program,” APT felt it was best to omit the episode from their schedule.
“Parents have trusted Alabama Public Television for more than 50 years to provide children’s programs that entertain, educate, and inspire,” Mike McKenzie, director of programming at APT, said in a 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,” continued McKenzie. “We also know that children who are younger than the ‘target’ audience for Arthur also watch the program.”
“The vast majority of parents will not have heard about the content, whether they agree with it or not,” added McKenzie. “Because of this, we felt it would be a violation of trust to broadcast the episode.”
Interestingly, one parent heard about the LGBTQ-inclusive episode and recorded the show with plans to watch with her 9-year-old daughter. But Misty Souder told AL.com that she was disappointed to only find a re-run on her DVR.
Souder says she contacted APT about the censorship, and used the experience as a teaching moment for her daughter about the importance of standing up for others.
“I just want her to be aware,” Souder explained to AL.com. “There’s too much going on not to stand up for stuff, even if it’s Arthur. I never thought I’d be going to battle for a gay rat wedding, but here we are.”
This isn’t APT’s first time to censor PBS’s Arthur.
In a 2005 episode, a bunny character named Buster visited a girl who was revealed to have two mothers.
Yep – APT pulled that installment, too.
According to AL.com, then-executive director of APT Allan Pizzato explained, “Our feeling is that we basically have a trust with parents about our programming.”
“This program doesn’t fit into that,” he added.
You can view the FULL EPISODE HERE.
I can't believe Alabama Public Television is refusing to air the Arthur episode about Mr. Ratburn's gay wedding.
Hasn't anyone told Alabama that the more gay people there are, the fewer abortions occur?
— an unknown error has occurred (@SPECIALG4Y) May 21, 2019
Alabama just banned Mr. Ratburn’s gay wedding episode of Arthur. I bet they also banned the episode that tells you all about the joys of a library card. Can’t have impressionable children going and *gasp* learning how the world really is!
— Harlee Noble (@HarleeNobleVA) May 21, 2019