‘Arthur’ character Mr. Ratburn comes out as gay, gets married in season premiere
By Gwen Aviles
Mr. Ratburn from the children’s show “Arthur” got married to another man in the show’s 22nd season premiere, spurring effusive reactions from those who grew up watching the program.
The episode, titled “Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone,” starred lesbian actor Jane Lynch as a special guest and aired Monday on PBS.
According to TVLine, which first reported on the historic episode, the show began with Arthur and his friends discovering, to their great surprise, that Mr. Ratburn is engaged. The group of animal friends, who seem to perpetually remain 8 years old, find it hard to believe that teachers might have a life outside of school.
“When they go home, they sharpen pencils, eat kale and dream up homework assignments,” Buster, a fun-loving rabbit, said in the episode. “They don’t even sleep! They just go into low-power mode and watch documentaries.”
This disbelief leads the group to spy on their third grade teacher and learn more about his future spouse. During their investigation, they see Mr. Ratburn having lunch with a woman and overhear his lunch partner (voiced by Lynch) telling him that he’s “too soft” and “needs to toughen up.”
The group is determined to prevent Mr. Ratburn from marrying the woman and show up at the wedding fully prepared to object to the nuptials.
But there’s a plot twist: The woman they saw at the lunch is Mr. Ratburn’s sister, not fiancee. Instead, Mr. Ratburn is marrying another man (well, aardvark, actually) named Patrick.
Upon seeing how happy the couple looks together, the group decides not to break up the marriage after all.
Although “Arthur” reemerged circa 2016 with the popularity of angry Arthur memes, many were surprised to learn that the show is still on the air. Once they got past this initial shock, they took to Twitter to express their enthusiasm.
“MR RATBURN IS GAY?? I’M CRYING,” one user wrote.
Others praised “Arthur” for making Mr. Ratburn’s sexuality clear, instead of just hinting at it like other programs.
“It turns out Arthur is more courageous and explicit than Avengers: Endgame when it comes to LGBTQ lives and storylines. Congrats, Mr. Ratburn! Your move Marvel…,” wrote Rachel Giese, the director of editorial at DailyXtra.
This is not the first time the “Arthur” series has featured a gay character. In a 2005 episode of the show’s spinoff, “Postcards From Buster,” the rabbit visits Vermont to learn about maple sugar. On his trip, he meets several children with lesbian mothers and comments, “Boy, that’s a lot of moms!”
According to the LGBTQ media advocacy organization GLAAD, “Representation in daytime kids and family television continues to grow in leaps and bounds.” The organization cites “Steven Universe,” “Adventure Time” and “Loud House” as some recent examples of programming that features nuanced LGBTQ characters.
Yet, featuring a gay marriage on a children’s television show remains revolutionary, according to fans.
Last year, the decades-old discussion over Bert and Ernie’s relationship and sexual orientation in “Sesame Street” came to a standstill after Frank Oz, the creator of Bert, denied the character was gay.
“I created Bert. I know what and who he is,” Oz wrote on Twitter.
Yet Mark Saltzman, a former writer for “Sesame Street,” maintained that the puppets were gay.
“I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert & Ernie, they were [gay],” Saltzman said in an interview with Queerty. “I didn’t have any other way to contextualize them.”