Here are two things you probably didn’t know: First, the animated children’s series Arthur is still on the air, entering its 22nd season on PBS Kids. Second, Arthur’s teacher — the well-read, well-dressed, well-liked Mr. Ratburn — is gay.
The news comes out in Monday’s premiere, titled “Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone,” in which Arthur and his pals are shocked to discover that Mr. Ratburn is engaged — mostly because they refuse to accept that their teachers actually have lives outside of school. “When they go home, they sharpen pencils, eat kale and dream up homework assignments,” Buster insists. “They don’t even sleep! They just go into low-power mode and watch documentaries.”
This paranoia only grows when the gang spots Mr. Ratburn having lunch with an uptight woman (voiced by special guest star Jane Lynch), who tells Mr. Ratburn that he’s “too soft” and needs to “toughen up.” They decide that marrying her will make Mr. Ratburn miserable, which will then make his students miserable, so they set off to nip the nuptials in the bud. Little do they realize, the woman in question is actually Mr. Ratburn’s sister, who just wants the best for his big day.
Arthur and his gang of mostly recognizable animal friends show up to the wedding ready to object, but when they see who Mr. Ratburn is actually marrying — not to mention how happy the couple appears — they decide not to sabotage their teacher’s big day, after all. They do, however, make fun of the way Mr. Ratburn and his new husband dance, which is fair.
Of course, this isn’t the first time the Arthur-verse has featured a gay character. A 2005 episode of the show’s spinoff, Postcards From Buster, found the titular rabbit visiting Vermont to learn how maple sugar is made. While there, he met several children whose moms were lesbians, to which he commented, “Boy, that’s a lot of moms!” (For what it’s worth, the word “lesbian” wasn’t actually used in the episode, just as Mr. Ratburn doesn’t use the word “gay” in Monday’s Arthur premiere.)
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