GLAAD has criticized Alabama Public Television’s decision to not air a recent episode of children’s animated program “Arthur” that features same-sex marriage, calling the move “mean-spirited.”
In the Season 22 premiere, which aired May 13, Arthur’s third-grade teacher Mr. Ratburn gets married to chocolate-store owner (and aardvark) Patrick. Alabama Public Television Director of Programming & Public Information Mike McKenzie confirmed to Variety that the station opted not to air the episode.
He said, via prepared statement, that while parents are encouraged to watch TV with their children and talk about it afterward, “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.”
“The storyline about Mr. Ratburn’s marriage conveys a positive message that many parents feel is entirely appropriate,” said McKenzie. “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.”
Most of the episode’s story line revolves not around same-sex marriage, but around Arthur and his friends’ surprise that their teacher has a life outside of the classroom, and their attempts to discover more about his presumed bride. The students attend the wedding, and Mr. Ratburn’s partner turns out to be Patrick, whom they meet earlier in the episode.
That kind of inclusivity in the media is key, said GLAAD.
“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 in a statement. “The uptick of LGBTQ characters and stories on kids TV shows has been met with praise from families of all kinds, and media need to put context to the extremely fringe anti-LGBTQ organizations and individuals who speak out against any inclusion.”
Ellis added that TV content often reflects real life, and LGBTQ families deserve to see themselves portrayed on screen.
“[I]f leadership of this public broadcasting station cannot serve the interests of the entire public, it’s time to find someone who can,” she said.
McKenzie said that parents can still watch the episode with their kids online at PBS.