Public broadcasting has been a frequent target for the Religious Right, whose leaders have over the years demanded it be shut down. This usually happens after PBS airs something that is perceived to be LGBTQ-friendly or that calls for tolerance.
Here we go again. Evangelist Franklin Graham is all worked up over an episode of the PBS children’s cartoon “Arthur,” which recently featured the marriage of a same-sex couple.
For those of you not familiar with the show, “Arthur” follows the adventures of an animated aardvark and his pals, all of whom are animals and live in the idyllic small town of Elwood City. (The show, based on a series of popular books by Marc Brown, has been running for more than 20 years; my two kids, who are now young adults, were big fans when they were little.) Arthur’s teacher, the homework-loving Mr. Ratburn, is a common foil for the group, but deep down they really care for him.
In a recent episode, the gang overhears Mr. Ratburn discussing his upcoming wedding, and they assume he’s going to marry a woman they’ve seen him hanging out with lately. Arthur and his friends don’t particularly care for this woman and scheme to break them up. The surprise ending is that the woman is Mr. Ratburn’s sister, who has been helping him plan the wedding, and Mr. Ratburn marches down the aisle with his partner Patrick.
(Image Credit: PBS)
All of this has Graham very angry. He took to social media to blast the episode.
“Why should our government be financing PBS programming that promotes what the Bible calls sin?” Graham said in a tweet. He added on Facebook, “I think many viewers may be surprised and disappointed in this content decision. I hope everyone will rise up and clearly tell PBS that they do not want to see this kind of programming slipped in to try to influence the hearts and minds of our children and grandchildren.”
The Family Research Council is also not pleased and has accused PBS of taking advantage of children.
At the end of the episode, Arthur’s friend Francine remarks, “It’s a brand-new world.” Indeed. In 2005, an episode of an “Arthur” spinoff show called “Postcards from Buster” was tossed down the memory hole because it featured a lesbian couple. “Postcards from Buster,” which combined animation with live action, featured Arthur’s best friend, a rabbit named Buster, as he traveled around the country meeting people and having adventures. When Buster dropped by a farm in Vermont owned by a lesbian couple, it was too much for Margaret Spellings, then the U.S. Secretary of Education. Spellings ordered the episode pulled from rotation and deep-sixed. For years afterward, bootlegged VHS copies of the episode circulated like samizdat among PBS-loving parents who would slip it to their kids on the sly.
Here’s hoping Mr. Ratburn’s wedding doesn’t meet a similar fate. And for those of you keeping score at home, Franklin Graham is in a lather over the fictional marriage of a cartoon rat. The sexual misconduct of our very real president is of no interest to him.