Oh dear... You know we're in for a ride when a review opens with a disclaimer. ^^;
This is not going to be easy, especially given the nature of this website ...but it needs be said.
First, I should introduce my feelings on this matter:
I'm Christian and I'm straight. Though I do not follow politics, I know enough to describe myself as Right-leaning ...that said,
Mine is a live-and-let-live philosophy. I recognize myself as a sinner, guilty of many many things. Moreover, I recognize I'm nothing special in that regard. What that means is we've all fallen short of virtue. For this reason, I should not (and will endeavor here to not) 'condemn the speck in my brother's eye when I've a log jutting from my own' (-Matt 7:3, paraphrased).
In short, what another person does is their business so long as they cause no objective harm to themselves or others. That's my stance.
Along with that is the commandment that we are to love one another. We needn't agree on most things, but we must always be loving, compassionate people. I'll do my utmost to demonstrate that here.
Homosexuality. For me, this falls under my life philosophy: I don't get it; I don't relate, but I don't need to. It neither affects me directly, nor does it seem to be a problem for those so oriented. If it's (yet) a sin, it's between God and the aforesaid (I have my own sins to be judged by).
So, where's the problem? Why am I writing this?
Hopefully this review will make everything clear.
In typical MartenFerret fashion, right after saying I've written my last review ...I write another review. :P
...But even had I not written this one, my declaration would have been no less erroneous ...as I forgot I hadn't yet written my Christmas review ...which I'd already made promises of... So, let's consider this review an unexpected bonus!
This review is of 'Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone' episode of 'Arthur'.
THEME SONG: "Every day when you're walking down the street/Everybody that you meet/Has an original point of view"
...Not in this episode (but I'm getting ahead of myself)!
The story begins in Arthur's classroom, wherein Mr. Ratburn (the teacher) announces a surprise quiz on lichens and liverworts. The groaning of the students is interrupted by the ringing of Ratburn's phone. Despite being in class, Ratburn takes the call,
MR. RATBURN: "Hello, Patti...I'm afraid I can't talk right now...Oh!...Flower arrangements?...I was thinking of sunflowers..."
After the call (which Ratburn apologizes for), Buster asks if the flowers will be on the quiz, too. Ratburn explains the flowers are for a wedding, specifically, Ratburn's wedding. :3
The story segues to The Sugar Bowl (cafe) where the kids: Arthur, Buster, Francine and Muffy, discuss Ratburn's decision to marry.
MUFFY: "Teachers don't get married; it's just wrong!"
ARTHUR: "I guess they do have some sort of life outside the classroom"
BUSTER: "No! They don't! When they go home, they eat kale, a dream up homework assignments!"
Kale? Are teachers in Arthur's universe elvish? ^^;
Anyway, the kids' conversation is interrupted when Mr. Ratburn and Patti (voiced by Jane Lynch) enter the scene. The kids duck under their table so as not to be observed eavesdropping. Ratburn and Patti discuss their plans for the wedding ceremony. Their conversation is colored by Patti's aggressive assertiveness (most of which is laid on the waiter) and her condescending, no-nonsense attitude.
PATTI (to Ratburn): "Now what did you think of the caterer we met?"
RATBURN: "That salmon mousse he gave us was delicious!"
PATTI: "Tuh! I wouldn't feed it to a stray cat ...and I don't even like cats!"
Does that count as a racist statement---this is a world of cartoon animals after all?
RATBURN: "Patti, not everything about the event has to be, well, perfect"
PATTI: "...You're too soft (Ratburn), too easygoing. We need to toughen you up!"
It's this statement that alarms the kids---the last thing they want is a harsher teacher!
Having concluded Patti to be Ratburn's bride-to-be, the kids meet at their treehouse to discuss their options ...as well as plan a way to stop the wedding.
...And it's here I'm going to do something I've not hitherto done in any of my reviews: I'm going to watch something else. :3
Well, first, I will be returning to this episode, but once I do I'll be skipping to its ending. There's truly no reason to see what is rest of the second act (anyone experienced with kiddie cartoons knows what to expect: the kids would try to hook Ratburn up with someone else and fail ...and that's precisely what happens).
I'm not being lazy here, for there is method to my madness. To clarify, let's take a look at another Arthur episode: 'April 9th' (aka Arthur's response to 9/11).
In short, a fire at the school frightens the students. Only a few minutes into the episode, we see Sue-Ellen mourn the loss of her journal (which is significant to her); Mr. Morris in an ambulance; Arthur, concerned for his father who is still inside the school, needing to be restrained by a fireman ...the episode doesn't hold back---it shows how intense situations like this can be (without going too far). More importantly, the episode takes time to show how the main cast was affected by the event. Their responses are fairly diverse---most who the episode is trying to reach could find a character to relate to.
Now, let's peek at 'The Great MacGrady' episode.
This one deals with the subject of cancer. This one begins in the school cafeteria, whereat the kids expect to see their beloved lunchlady: Mrs. MacGrady. Instead, they're introduced to Skip Bitterman: the substitute chef ...and his atrocious lunches! After several days of this, the kids learn Mrs. MacGrady is sick with cancer. As the former episode, this one takes its time to convey the differing feelings the kids have on the matter. For example, Muffy doesn't see it as too big a deal, whereas Francine is greatly troubled (she says her grandfather died of cancer). Additionally, MacGrady isn't a victim here. When Arthur and D.W. visit with her, MacGrady is cheerful but realistic---explaining to the the kids what cancer is. All in all, the episode is fair, thoughtful and comprehensive on its issue.
By now, I'm sure the reader gets the point: the Arthur series has tackled difficult subjects before (*mortality **autism; *** divorce; ****religious/cultural beliefs, etc), and has handled these quite well (for the most part).
*So Long Spanky **When Carl Met George ***Mom and Dad Have a Great Big Fight/Arthur's Faraway Friend ****Arthur's Perfect Christmas
...And then there's this.
Skipping to the end of 'Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone', we see the main cast of kids and their parents have taken seats at the wedding ceremony. The kids are still convinced Mr. Ratburn is going to marry Patti (nothing we've skipped over suggested otherwise).
However, it is revealed (by none other than Patti herself) that she is Mr. Ratburn's big sister.
ARTHUR (to Muffy): "But if Patti's (Ratburn's) sister, then..."
Then this episode would be much more controversial! *shot*
Anyway... Before anyone can panic, Mr. Ratburn appears walking down the aisle, arm-in-arm with his groom: Patrick (a chocolateer; Patrick appeared during the second act, but it was never overtly stated he was Ratburn's fiance).
As the two proceed to the alter, Patrick winks at the TV audience.
And that's it. Afterwords, the kids briefly express their relief over a slice of wedding cake, and the story ends.
...And I had a problem with this?
As I implied earlier, older episodes of Arthur handled delicate subjects with concern and (daresay) dignity ...whereas this one prefered to wink slyly at its viewership.
The subject would have been served with greater justice had Patrick been introduced to the viewer as Ratburn's groom-to-be from the beginning, allowing the kids (and/or their parents, who may have differing perspectives on the matter) to explore their thoughts and feelings on same-sex marriage ...but I get why the episode didn't (I'll address it later---it's not a good thing).
It's been proposed the episode was in fact written with the above in mind: its 'surprise' ending intending to beget conversations at home, whereat parents could talk with their children about the wedding based on their individual beliefs on the matter.
No. The above seems plausible and well-intentioned, but we know what they say about the folly of good intentions. :3
First, parents shouldn't need to take adult matters such as these with their young children.
Second, if the topic IS to be presented to a young audience, same-sex marriage isn't the type of issue to treat or introduce surreptitiously, esp. given the impressionability of its viewership.
I'm fully aware this is 2019, it's "...a new world" as Francine says. I get it ...and that's again why this episode needed to be forthright on the matter, by allowing its characters to engage the topic themselves, as has been the norm for the Arthur series. I'm not writing with a bias here, but with a basis: Arthur has generally been a thoughtful and respectable series, sharing rank with Reading Rainbow, Mr. Rogers, and other revered programs. 'Arthur' failed hard this time (and it REALLY shouldn't've)!
Yet, again, I'm not an idiot---I get why the episode couldn't 'go there'. Same-sex marriage is one of those troublesome issues that isn't open to contrary opinion ...at all ...and the creators of Arthur are very well aware of this. My take is many adults are afraid to be honest on the matter of same-sex relationships if 'honest' entails any form of contrarinaism ...not that such is the sort of message to impart to our children, but I digress.
Thus my thoughts conclude on 'Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone': a pandering episode of a children's series, written for adults---the same adults who clamor for *Bert and Ernie to hop in bed together.
I'm unsure how to define it, but the influencers of the Western world seem to have the 'goal' of molding its populations into some sort of hyper-sensitive, overscrupulous, cultureless society. What's worse is its foremost means of achieving this: the indoctrination of young children ...which includes subjecting them to adult, sexual affairs.
In other words, cartoons aren't the problem---they're a symptom of a far greater one.