Long-running children’s cartoon Arthur has broken new ground by featuring its first same-sex marriage in the premiere of its 22nd season – but audiences in the US state of Alabama were none the wiser.
Alabama Public Television, which distributes the show across the state, refused to air the episode that celebrated the wedding of the titular aardvark’s teacher.
The premiere, titled Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone, revealed the teacher’s nuptials to another man – an aardvark – in front of his jubilant students.
Alabama Public Television refused to air an episode of the kids show "Arthur" where the characters attend their teacher's gay wedding.
The station said "it would be a violation of trust" to broadcast the episode. pic.twitter.com/Ga9EApuf4H
— AJ+ (@ajplus) May 21, 2019
APT programming director Mike McKenzie said airing the wedding would have violated parents’ trust.
Mr McKenzie also suggested many would find it inappropriate “either because their children are too young, or because of their beliefs”.
“Although we strongly encourage parents to watch television with their children – and talk about what they have learned afterwards – parents trust that their children can watch APT without their supervision,” Mr McKenzie said.
However, social media commentators called out the broadcaster for censoring the matter-of-fact representation of same-sex marriage.
In 1968, Star Trek showrunners tried to obscure an interracial kiss between Capt. Kirk and Lt. Uhura (William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols) to avoid offending the south. In 2019, Alabama Public TV chose not to broadcast an episode of Arthur because it included a same-sex wedding. pic.twitter.com/5PajQLCNAn
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) May 21, 2019
Alabama Public Television has refused to air the Arthur episode where a gay rat gets married.
Right. Because how on Earth will parents explain love to their kids, when they’re being forced to carry their rapist’s baby.
— emilia (@PoliticalEmilia) May 21, 2019
Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation also condemned the Alabama broadcaster’s censorship decision, describing it as “homophobia, plain and simple”.
“TV worlds often reflect our actual world and today that includes LGBTQ parents and families,” GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said.
The popular children’s show has aired in the US and around the world since 1996, and has not shied away from tackling social issues in the past.
Spinoff series Postcards from Buster, which charts the journey of one of Arthur’s furry friends, courted backlash from conservative figures in 2005 for its portrayal of a family with lesbian mothers.
Alabama recently passed an anti-abortion law that was supported by 25 male lawmakers – banning terminations in virtually all cases, including rape or incest – which has since prompted protests across the US.
Same-sex marriage was instituted in Alabama in 2015, following the US Supreme Court’s landmark decision that transformed marriage law across the country.
However, eight of the state’s counties have avoided issuing licenses altogether to prevent same-sex couples from marrying.