On Monday afternoon, news broke that Alabama Public Television (APT) decided not to air the latest episode of PBS’s children’s show Arthur, in which the teacher Mr. Ratburn married another man, the aardvark-chocolatier character Patrick. APT noted that parents trust that their kids can watch public television without being exposed to such controversial subjects. Yet a broad swath of liberal influencers on Twitter raised a ruckus, accusing APT of violating the “rights” of “cartoon characters.”
Al.com reported the news Tuesday. According to APT’s director of programming, Mike Mckenzie, WGBH and PBS notified the television program about the May 13 episode “Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone” in mid-April. APT decided to show a re-run instead.
“Parents have trusted Alabama Public Television for more than 50 years to provide children’s programs that entertain, educate and inspire, “Mckenzie told Al.com. “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.”
In 2005, APT pulled an earlier Arthur episode involving a scene in which a character visits a girl with “two mothers.” APT’s then-director Allan Pizzato also mentioned parental trust in making the decision. “‘Our feeling is that we basically have a trust with parents about our programming. This program doesn’t fit into that,” he said.
Al.com concluded the article with a quote from Misty Souder, a substitute teacher in McCalla. She wanted her 9-year-old daughter to see the episode. “I just want her to be aware,” Souder said. “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.”
The story did not include any quotes from grateful parents who would prefer their kids not to get indoctrinated into LGBT pride by public television. Arthur is designed for kids ages 6 to 8, as noted in this trailer for a PBS kids’ app.
Same-sex weddings — while legal since 2015 by Supreme Court fiat — are rightly controversial affairs, since Christianity, Orthodox Judaism, Islam, and other faiths teach that marriage is between one man and one woman. Many secular people may also hold to the teaching, since natural human reproduction is only possible with one man and one woman.
This Arthur episode seems to target children with the message that same-sex weddings are normal and to be celebrated. In a deep red state like Alabama, it is likely that most parents are grateful for the opportunity to discuss this issue with their children on their own timing — not after TV exposure forces them to bring up the issue.
Yet liberals loudly complained about this decision. Many noted the recent Alabama law restricting abortion and challenging the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade (1973). They complained that the law does not include exceptions for rape.
“‘I never thought I’d be going to battle for a gay rat wedding, but here we are.’ – an Alabama teacher. That quote is so bad Florida’s like, ‘Did I say that? It sounds like something I’d say.’ Alabama is taking away rights from women & cartoon characters,” W. Kamau Bell, host of CNN’s United Shades of America, tweeted.
"I never thought I’d be going to battle for a gay rat wedding, but here we are.” – an Alabama teacher
That quote is so bad Florida's like, "Did I say that? It sounds like something I'd say."
Alabama is taking away rights from women & cartoon characters. https://t.co/J7vzOF42Vq
— W. Kamau Bell (@wkamaubell) May 21, 2019
How a refusal to air the episode involves “taking away rights” from “cartoon characters” is beyond me. Alabama Public Television did not demand PBS reverse the episode or pass a law saying that same-sex cartoon characters cannot get married. Perhaps Bell was joking, but his mention of abortion — “taking away rights from women” — suggests some level of seriousness.
Hollywood writer Jess Dweck also connected the Arthur episode to the abortion bill. “How will I explain to my 12-year-old child who is being forced to give birth to her rapist’s baby that two cartoon characters are getting married?” she tweeted. (To reiterate, the target demographic for Arthur is ages 6 to 8. APT restricted the episode to keep kids under 6 from seeing it.)
“How will I explain to my 12-year-old child who is being forced to give birth to her rapist’s baby that two cartoon characters are getting married?” https://t.co/VnJAIQZLZV
— Jess Dweck (@TheDweck) May 21, 2019
“Yes, we wouldn’t want those kids we’re forcing to have incest babies to be able to see a gay cartoon character. How would they recover?” tweeted Josh Moon, a journalist at the Alabama Reporter who has also written for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance program.
— Josh Moon (@Josh_Moon) May 21, 2019
CNN host S.E. Cupp delivered another non-sequitur. Noting the bad ranking of Alabama schools (dead last in the nation, tragically), she acted as though APT’s decision on Arthur suggested that Alabama somehow prioritizes traditional marriage over good education, as if the two were mutually exclusive.
“Because THIS is the biggest threat to Alabama school kids. Not the fact that they have one of the worst performing schools in the nation,” Cupp tweeted.
Because THIS is the biggest threat to Alabama school kids. Not the fact that they have one of the worst performing schools in the nation. https://t.co/eh4tstoLii
— S.E. Cupp (@secupp) May 21, 2019
Other liberals employed disgusting stereotypes about Alabamians marrying family members to mock the state.
“Alabama Public Television chooses not to air PBS’s Arthur’s same-sex wedding episode until the creators turn Mr. Ratburn from loveable teacher into menacing drifter who rapes women at truckstops and his new aardvark bride into his wayward niece, so the marriage is more holy,” Hollywood producer Jeremy Newberger tweeted.
Alabama Public Television chooses not to air PBS’s Arthur’s same-sex wedding episode until the creators turn Mr. Ratburn from loveable teacher into menacing drifter who rapes women at truckstops and his new aardvark bride into his wayward niece, so the marriage is more holy. pic.twitter.com/2REGqq4au4
— Jeremy Newberger (@jeremynewberger) May 21, 2019
Esquire writer Justin Kirkland also tied the TV program decision to abortion. “Alabama: Carrying a child of rape to term is the mother’s moral obligation. Also Alabama: Don’t watch the gay cartoon rat get married. We’re not demons,” he tweeted.
ThinkProgress reporter Zack Ford also used the APT decision to defend Alabama stereotypes.
Alabama Public Television refused to air a kids' show because it portrayed a same-sex wedding. It's hard to take people seriously when they complain that everyone in Alabama gets lumped into certain stereotypes. https://t.co/ssU29s47gV
— Zack Ford (@ZackFord) May 20, 2019
While many Christians who oppose same-sex marriage due to the Bible’s clear teaching on sexuality also support pro-life laws protecting the lives of unborn babies from abortion, the claim that these views are backward is itself bigoted. Liberals seem unable or unwilling to understand traditional sexuality or the science behind the humanity of the unborn. Indeed, they seem bent on fighting parents’ ability to shield their 6-year-old kids from same-sex marriage.
Rather than considering there might be another view on these issues, liberals slammed Alabamians as incestuous backward hicks.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.