The PBS Kids animated series “Arthur” made national headlines earlier this month after its May 13 episode included a wedding between two male characters: Arthur’s teacher Mr. Ratburn and a local chocolatier named Patrick. While the historic episode was mostly praised, Alabama Public Television director of programming Mike McKenzie made the decision not to allow the episode to air on the state’s television channel.
“Our concern is with the subject matter, the marriage of Mr Ratburn and the other gentleman,” McKenzie told The Wrap. “We have a fairly large number of people who have a problem with teaching that to their children.”
McKenzie did not criticize the show for including a wedding between characters of the same sex, but he said his decision was made so that parents could decide whether or not they wanted their children to see such subject matter depicted on television.
“Many parents feel that Mr. Ratburn’s marriage conveys a positive message that they think is appropriate for their children,” McKenzie said. “Many other parents disagree, either because their children are too young, or because of their beliefs. 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…Our broadcast would take away the choice of parents who feel it is inappropriate.”
McKenzie encouraged parents who want their children to watch the episode to do so by streaming the installment on PBS’ website. While the episode features a gay wedding, nothing about the episode’s storyline directly pertains to the characters being homosexual. The episode follows Arthur, Muffy, Francine, and Buster as they try to find out who Mr. Rayburn is marrying because they don’t believe teachers have lives outside of school. When the kids find out their teacher is marrying Patrick, they act normally and there is no disbelief. The episode makes no explicit mention of the character’s sexuality.
The episode was a course-correction moment for PBS, who dropped the ball on LGBTQ representation in 2006 when it pulled from the air another “Arthur”-related episode simply for featuring lesbian moms as background characters.