After voting last week to make abortion a punishable offense, it comes as no big surprise that Alabama public television has now refused to air the Season 22 premiere of animated series Arthur over concerns about the gay wedding of teacher Mr. Ratburn.
The children’s series, which premiered on PBSKids in 1996, raised eyebrows this year after their decision to feature the show’s disciplinarian teacher Mr. Ratburn to Patrick, a chocolatier aardvark, at a wedding attended by his students Arthur, Francine, Buster and Muffy. The episode, which aired May 13, made no mention of the word gay or the character’s genders and the students offer no visible reaction to it.
Instead, APT preempted the episode by showing a re-run of Arthur.
Mike Mckenzie, director of programming at APT, said APT was notified by WGBH and PBS in mid-April about the episode titled “Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone.”
In a story published by The Wrap, APT director of programming Mike McKenzie reportedly said that footage of same-sex relationships would have raised serious objections among many viewers. Let’s take a look:
“Our concern is with the subject matter, the marriage of Mr Ratburn and the other gentleman,” McKenzie said. “We have a fairly large number of people who have a problem with teaching that to their children.”
“Many parents feel that Mr. Ratburn’s marriage conveys a positive message that they think is appropriate for their children. Many other parents disagree, either because their children are too young, or because of their beliefs,” he continued in an emailed statement.
“The vast majority of parents will not have heard about the content, whether they agree with it or not, and our greatest concern was taking away these parents’ choice. Parents who want to are able to watch the episode online with their children at pbs.org. Our broadcast would take away the choice of parents who feel it is inappropriate.”
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GLAAD, the media advocacy group for LGBTQ people, slammed APT’s decision, calling it an “attack to censor content” and not only “mean-spirited,” but also “a losing battle.
“With LGBTQ visibility at an all-time high on television, including in the Kids and Family Programming genre, this attack to censor content is not only mean-spirited, it’s a losing battle,” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “TV worlds often reflect our actual world and today that includes LGBTQ parents and families. LGBTQ parents and their children deserve to see themselves reflected in media and if leadership of this public broadcasting station cannot serve the interests of the entire public, it’s time to find someone who can.”
In 2005, APT pulled an episode of “Postcards From Buster,” a spinoff of “Arthur,” in which the character Buster met a girl who had two mothers.
“’Our feeling is that we basically have a trust with parents about our programming,” then-executive director Allan Pizzato told AL.com at the time. “This program doesn’t fit into that.”
Mckenzie said APT has no plans to air the episode at a later date.