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A publicly-funded educational show for children 4-8 about an anthropomorphic aardvark took a turn for the even weirder, when it decided to teach kids the importance of accepting adult male-male inter-species love relationships.
Come on, if there was one thing kids’ TV programming was desperately crying out for, it was a gay cartoon rat getting married, teaching us all a timely lesson about “diversity.”
So, that’s exactly what the season premiere of the Public Broadcasting Service’s (PBS) “Arthur” cartoon delivered. The episode featured a surprise wedding between the titular aardvark’s humanoid rat teacher and his male partner who appears to also be an aardvark…as CNN put it, “leaving us all in happy tears.”
While many people seemed unsurprised that Mr. Ratburn, a ‘man’ whose principal interests include eating cake and bird-watching, turned out to be a homosexual, there were, nonetheless, heavy celebrations across social media post-nuptials.
Indeed, social justice warriors everywhere were hardly able to contain their glee over the inter-species, same-sex pairing up. If nothing else, the episode confirmed that even kids just barely out of toddlerhood can no longer avoid being pummelled with lessons about identity politics.
Arthur has been on the air for a whopping 22 SEASONS, making it the longest running children’s cartoon on television. So, perhaps we can chalk its success up to being so very in tune with the zeitgeist — and its willingness to take on responsibilities that might otherwise be left to parents. Like lessons about gay marriage, for example.
Should decisions of when and how to teach children about adult relationships really be made by television producers trying to impart their personal values onto everyone else’s kids? Regardless of whether the relationship is heterosexual or same-sex, marriage is hardly a topic many people would expect to be cropping up in a cartoon for four-year-olds.
What’s next? Are busy parents going to have to start vetting the shows their toddlers are watching and pick ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’ ones depending on their own political persuasions? Can a parent not sit their child in front of a television show without wondering what wisdom and life lessons the friendly animated characters are going to be imparting next?
Of course, there’s no grave danger in a child learning about marriage and the basics of sexuality (some people are gay, some are straight, etc.), but are these topics really age-appropriate for the under-fives?
It’s not the first time that PBS has dealt with same-sex relationships in a supposedly child-friendly manner, either. The publicly-funded network ran an episode in 2005 which ambitiously featured two lesbian couples. Although, it appears on that occasion, “Arthur” was a bit ahead of its time and it was forced to pull the episode following parental complaints.
In a statement to People magazine, the network commented on the importance of accurately representing “the diversity of communities across the nation,” as well as the “wide array of adults in the lives of children who look to PBS KIDS every day.”
Social media reaction varied from extreme excitement that wedding bells were finally ringing for Mr. Ratburn to concern that PBS had taken their efforts to promote diversity and educate young kids a tad too far. Some were even downright angry that the channel had decided to “burden” children with thoughts of sexuality and adult relationships, homosexual or otherwise.