On the TV show Arthur, Arthur's teacher Mr. Ratburn comes out as gay in the season 22 premiere episode of the popular children's show, and gets married to his partner. Arthur has been on the air since 1996, and continues to air on PBS Kids, TVO, CBBC, and numerous other networks to this day. The 22nd season of the long-running kid's show premiered Monday, and in the episode, Arthur and his friends learn something new about the beloved, and fashionable, teacher.
The success of Arthur over the years eventually spawned a spin-off, entitled Postcards From Buster, which aired from 2004 to 2012. The spin-off has featured gay characters, as well. On March 22, 2005, the spin-off show aired the episode called "Sugartime! (Hinesburg, Vermont)," in which Buster visits Vermont in order to learn about the process of making maple sugar. In the episode, Buster meets a lot of children who have two mothers. The episode was originally banned across the U.S., despite the fact that the episode didn't use the word "lesbian" at all. That being said, Arthur episodes have been banned in the past. An episode featuring a cameo from Lance Armstrong was banned after he admitted to substance abuse. Nonetheless, after numerous complaints from the LGBT community, the episode of Postcards from Buster was eventually released on DVD, along with the entire show. A lot has changed since then in terms of societal acceptance, and this new episode of Arthur reflects that change.
TVLine broke the news about Monday's episode, titled "Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone," in which Arthur and his friends discover that their teacher is going to be getting married. They overhear a conversation between the popular teacher and an unknown, high-strung woman (voiced by Jane Lynch), in which she tells Mr. Ratburn to "toughen up" and tells him he's "too soft." The kids do not like what they hear, and assuming this woman is their teacher's bride, they decide that the wedding will be a disaster and lead to his inevitable unhappiness. In their minds, if Mr. Ratburn is miserable, then they will be miserable too, so they decide to attend the wedding and devise a plan to stop it from happening.
It all turns out to be a big misunderstanding, however, when the children realize that the woman they saw talking to Mr. Ratburn is actually his sister. In fact, she means well and wants the best for her brother. In the end, the kids learn Mr. Ratburn's bride is in fact a groom, and once they see how happy they are together, they decide to trash their plan and share in their teacher's happiness. Of course, that didn't stop them from making a few jokes about the way the newlyweds dance, but kids will be kids. It also came as a shock to them, earlier in the episode, when they learned their teacher had a life outside of school. Nonetheless, the episode reflects a shift in today's society, in which same-sex couples are celebrated, rather than censored.
The long-running show has always educated, as well as entertained, its audience, so it makes sense they would broadcast an episode such as this one. Hopefully Arthur will reveal more about Mr. Ratburn and his new husband in episodes to come, but only time will tell. In the meantime, fans can at least be satisfied with learning this new information about the beloved character.