Beloved PBS series ‘Arthur’ has been on the air since October 10, 1996, and is the longest-running children’s animated series and second-longest running animated series in the U.S. behind ‘The Simpsons.’ So for the younger folks, ‘Arthur’ is more than a meme!
For 21 seasons, Arthur and his friends have learned many lessons in and out of school from their teacher Mr. Ratburn. Not much was mentioned in regards to Mr. Ratburn’s personal life throughout the years, but for the premiere of season 22, the kids’ favorite teacher invites them to his wedding.
In the premiere episode titled “Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone,” Arthur and his friends attend their teacher’s wedding, under the impression that Mr. Ratburn is marrying female rat, Patty -until they realize she’s actually his sister. Muffy then asks Arthur, “Who is Mr. Ratburn marrying?” as she turns to see Mr. Ratburn walking next to another groom.
Arthur and Muffy then look at each other smiling, excitedly. After the ceremony, Arthur and friends discuss the wedding and their disbelief that Mr. Ratburn is married, to which Francine says, “Yep, it’s a brand new world.” As if references the current changing cultural times.
After the premiere, Twitter went off with some raving reviews and some disappointing remarks. Many people praised PBS for including diverse communities in its programming. Others questioned why homosexuality had to be displayed in children’s programming.
One user tweeted, “shout out to #PBS for the representation. Just watched “Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone,” and I’m so here for it! #arthur #mrratburn”. Another Twitter user wrote, “I never thought I’d see the day that a PBS Kids show, especially Arthur, have a gay character. Way to go Mr. Ratburn! It’s a good day to be alive.”
Those opposed to the episode weren’t necessarily against the choice but were confused as to why a gay character was “needed” on a children’s show. One user tweeted, “OK so apparently Mr. Ratburn from Arthur is gay…. That’s cool and all but why? It’s a kids show, it doesn’t exactly ‘need’ an openly gay character,” wrote one user. “Don’t get me wrong; I respect the LGBTQ+ community. I just don’t understand why so many TV characters are gay these days. #Ally”
This isn’t the first time ‘Arthur’ has shown same-sex marriage. According to Variety, a spinoff of the series called “Postcards from Buster,” centered on Arthur’s lovable rabbit friend and featured a lesbian couple in 2005.
In a statement to PEOPLE, PBS said the moment was important in accurately reflecting the “diverse communities” children who watch the show are currently being raised in. “PBS KIDS programs are designed to reflect the diversity of communities across the nation. We believe it is important to represent the wide array of adults in the lives of children who look to PBS KIDS every day,” the network stated.