The creator of “Arthur” has vowed to defend his decision to depict a same-sex marriage on the iconic children’s program “to anybody who wants to talk about it.”
Titled “Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone,” the PBS Kids series’ Season 22 premiere episode revealed that one of its characters, Mr. Ratburn, is gay. The elementary school teacher, a rat, tied the knot with a male aardvark named Patrick in the episode.
Though many “Arthur” fans responded favorably on social media, a number of right-wing conservative pundits and groups lambasted the show. Meanwhile, Alabama Public Television went a step further by yanking “Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone” from the airwaves entirely, opting to broadcast a repeat of an older episode instead.
In a People interview published Tuesday, “Arthur” creator Marc Brown appeared taken aback by the controversy, saying he was “very disappointed” by Alabama Public Television’s decision.
“I’m really proud of that episode,” he explained. “And I will defend it to anybody who wants to talk about it.”
The three-time Emmy Award winner said his decision to include a same-sex wedding on the show was born out of his interest in making viewers from all walks of life “feel represented.”
“Why shouldn’t their teacher marry another man? We all know people who are gay, who are trans, and it’s something that is socially acceptable,” Brown said. “Why is there this discomfort that it takes a leap into our national media?”
“I don’t want children or people who are different to feel excluded,” he continued. “That’s not the kind of world we want to live in. And we want children to be educated so they can see there’s not just one type of family.”
A PBS spokesperson echoed Brown’s sentiments, telling People, “We believe it is important to represent the wide array of adults in the lives of children who look to PBS Kids every day.”
It isn’t the first time one of Brown’s creations has ruffled feathers with regard to LGBTQ-inclusive content. In 2005, the “Arthur” spinoff “Postcards From Buster” lost a number of corporate sponsors over an episode that featured a pair of lesbian mothers.
PBS ultimately decided not to distribute the episode when Margaret Spellings, then-education secretary under President George W. Bush, expressed “strong and very serious concerns” with regard to its themes.
With “Arthur” making headlines for a same-sex union 14 years later, Brown told People he was reminded of the “Postcards From Buster” fallout.
“We have a very powerful medium in television, and coupled with animation, it’s probably one of the most seductive forms of entertainment and education we can use to reach a child,” he said. “Why not use it in a positive way?”