The Season 22 premiere of the PBS Kids show “Arthur” surprised viewers on Monday by revealing one of its characters, Mr. Ratburn, to be gay.
The episode, “Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone,” saw the elementary school teacher tie the knot with a man named Patrick.
Social media was quickly flooded with loving messages for the animated newlyweds. The episode, however, didn’t sit well with Sebastian Gorka, an ex-Breitbart editor and former deputy adviser on national security under President Donald Trump, who argued Wednesday that the depiction of a same-sex marriage on “Arthur” is part of “a war for our culture.”
“My children used to watch ‘Arthur’ 15 years ago, about a rodent-like creature that lived and had fun in his cartoon world,” Gorka said on his radio show “America First,” as reported by The Washington Post.
“The new season of ‘Arthur’ will have one of Arthur’s teachers at school, a male teacher married to a fellow male rodent,” he reportedly said. “Did you have any questions about there being a culture war, ladies and gentlemen? Did you have any doubt in your mind?”
“Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone” also got a chilly reception from One Million Moms, a division of the American Family Association and a conservative group known for speaking out against everything from Ellen DeGeneres to Toys R Us.
In a Wednesday post on its website, One Million Moms accused PBS Kids of “normalizing and glorifying” same-sex marriage by airing the episode.
“Discussion of such controversial topics and lifestyle choices should be left up to parents. PBS Kids should not introduce this to young children,” the post reads. “Just because an issue may be legal or because some are choosing a lifestyle doesn’t make it morally correct.”
Arguing that PBS Kids should “stick to entertaining and providing family-friendly programming, instead of pushing an agenda,” the group urged supporters to “voice your disapproval of the network’s attempt to normalize same-sex marriage” by signing a petition.
As of Thursday afternoon, the petition had more than 15,900 signatures.
The conservative pushback notwithstanding, this isn’t the first time PBS has depicted same-sex couples on a children’s show ― and this time, the overall reception was considerably more positive.
In 2005, the “Arthur” spinoff “Postcards From Buster” faced a massive backlash 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” about its LGBTQ-inclusive theme.
The show also reportedly lost a number of corporate sponsors as a result.