When I was younger (yes Sarah, I used to be EVEN younger), my favourite show on TV was Arthur. I was obsessed, and I could (and still can) sing the entire theme song from memory. Watching Arthur was my after-school ritual because it was a great show. The premise was wholesome, the jokes were funny (even as an adult), and it covered important topics like bullying, self-image, and accepting people even if they’re different from you.
For those of you unfamiliar with Arthur, the series started in 1996 and is about a 3rd grade class in the small town of Elwood City, taught by Mr. Nigel Ratburn. He’s a strict but caring teacher who loves homework. Obviously, as you get older, Mr. Ratburn becomes less of an antagonist, and more of a relatable character. He’s a teacher, coach, school newspaper supervisor, children’s puppet show producer, and cashier in the summer. Mr. Ratburn was living the gig economy before it was even a thing.
The stories revolve around Arthur Read, the main character, and his relationships with family and friends like Buster, Francine, and Muffy. (Side note: Muffy was always THAT bitch who knew she was royalty among peasants. Respect for MY queen. She also inspired the funniest Tumblr post I’ve ever seen.)
(I can’t find the original post, but this is a screenshot of it).
I was content with my childhood memories of Arthur until I saw yesterday that Mr. Ratburn was trending on Twitter. Initial reaction: Arthur is STILL going??? Second reaction: MR. RATBURN IS GAY (OR BI)!!!
In yesterday’s Season 22 premiere, PBS dedicated an entire episode to Nigel’s wedding to Patrick, the cute owner of the town’s local candy shop. (Yes, I know he’s animated and an animal, but he’s still cute af. Don’t judge me.) This news is the exact opposite of “childhood ruined.” Childhood enhanced. Childhood upgraded. UP-GAY-DED!
Yesterday, when Melayna wrote about the possibility of Janelle Monae and Lupita Nyong’o being an item, I gay screamed. Today, Mr. Ratburn is married to a man. If we continue at this pace, I don’t think my heart will last the week.
There’s obviously an important message in “Mr. Ratburn & The Special Someone.” Arthur and friends are appalled to learn that he’s getting married, and to a seemingly rude bride (played by Jane Lynch). They even go so far as to write a fake poem to the librarian in order to convince her to be with Ratburn. (She instead corrects several spelling mistakes in red pen, and hands the poem back to the kids along with a book on writing poetry for beginners. SAVAGE). Eventually, they plan to just object at the wedding until they discover that his alleged mean bride was in fact his mean sister. Instead, Ratburn walks down the aisle with cutie Patrick, who he probably met on Grindr like two months ago.
deep down didn't we all know mr. ratburn was gay when we found out he was in a band that looked like this! pic.twitter.com/e0metZH7nb— luke! 🍊 (@tusktwo) May 13, 2019
There are definitely some logical fallacies in Arthur, though it’s still better than Game of Thrones at this point. For starters, the kids read the wedding invitation. Why didn’t they see that Ratburn was marrying Patrick? Why didn’t anyone tell them? How do these 8 year olds afford to eat at that damn diner every day? Who’s paying???
Nevertheless, the key takeaway from this episode is the power of assumptions. Everyone assumes that Ratburn is marrying a woman, even when they try to find another bride. At the wedding, the children (and viewers) are forced to confront these ingrained beliefs. It’s a neat way to teach children how to use tools like gender neutral language to make others feel comfortable. The best part is that Mr. Ratburn’s personality is unchanged despite “coming out.” No one ever feels the need to address it, and he remains the same homework loving geek he always was. Unlike JK Rowling or certain Endgame directors, although Mr. Ratburn’s sexuality has little bearing on his role in the show, these writers took time to give him a clear, visible Gay Moment™. That’s huge progress, especially for a staple channel like PBS.
Mr. Ratburn has now entered into the Gay Hall of Fame alongside greats like Babadook, Korra, and Marceline the Vampire. Werk it Nigel.
You can watch the season premiere of Arthur here.