On May 13, Alabama Public Television (APT) decided against airing an episode of “Arthur,” a popular children’s television show, which kicked off its 22nd season with an episode about Arthur’s teacher, Mr. Ratburn, and his husband.
If it was as simple as that however, I would not be writing this piece.
Alabama has been on thin ice in the nation’s eye as of late due to its decision to challenge Roe v Wade and roll out a right-wing ban of abortion in the apparent newfound vitality of conservatism.
However, recently APT has taken a strong standing on homosexuals on television and more specifically children’s television. APT released a statement regarding the issue stating, “Parents have trusted Alabama Public Television for more than 50 years to provide children’s programs that entertain, educate and inspire,” as well as, “Our feeling is that we basically have a trust with parents about our programming … this program doesn’t fit into that.”
These statements, though, raise more questions than they answer. APT’s undertones and diction are a cacophony of deep-rooted discrimination and prejudicial biases.
Starting off, APT lists some of their values, which seems nice until one realizes that they contrast those values with the “Arthur” episode. It seems that APT genuinely can not find any value in this episode, at least any value which coincides with their own.
However, I would argue that this “Arthur” episode fits all three of their criteria for what they think “fits” their programming. When APT stated their values, they insinuated that they believe the episode clashed with those.
It is bold to assume that children can not be entertained by a cartoon, or the idea of a “gay” marriage. Children specifically do not think in the same schemas or “boxes” that we do. The reason that Arthur’s message is important then, is that it is exposure, which is something that children should experience.
There’s a reason that in children’s television minority characters (especially those who are fictitious) never directly talk about their problems, they just act like everyone else. This exposure to different people is extremely important for inclusivity and acceptance.
Also, APT assumes that there is no inherent educational value to this episode. Saying that the episode clashes with its own values is to say that the mere existence of homosexuality is not important enough for a child to know about. This is a dangerous view, because it’s opinions like these that allow for subtle “white-washing,” for children to grow up being discriminatory towards those who they simply are not used to.
Finally, APT says there is no inspiration that can come from this episode. This strikes a nerve because, growing up a gay child in a conservative household, there were no gay people for me to look up to. Nobody like me existed on television, or in school or even in my life. I grew up feeling very outcast and in a lot of ways I was. The bullying, the slurs, all of it came full force and it was very hard to stay confident in my sexuality.
News flash: People who are gay are born gay, thus some children are gay, thus some children will look at that “Arthur” character and find some inspiration, whether they recognize it as being different or more importantly it being them.
For those who would like to see the Arthur episode detailed in this commentary, go to https://pbskids.org/video/arthur/3028697275.
Jesse Gonzalez, Salt Lake City, is a student journalist and debater at Highland High School.