This is the first sentence of my post and you can probably feel that I'm a little annoyed. A little miffed. A little snubbed. I couldn't sleep at all last night. And it's all because Mr. Ratburn from "Arthur" came out as gay, had himself a big old wedding, and didn't invite any of us. (Or even advertise that it was happening.)
On one hand, it's too bad that (due to the lack of aforementioned advertising) I wasn't able to call up my old childhood friends so we could watch the happy sight of two anthropomorphized and consenting rats tying the knot.
On the other it's just as great that pretty much nothing was said about Mr. Ratburn's sexual orientation until he shared the fact that he was getting married (to a dude-rat) with Arthur and Friends during the premiere of the show's 22nd season. Because it's literally not that big a deal! Gay people exist! And some of them are friendly, talking animals who can teach you a thing or two about not skipping school, Francine!
I was thinking of explaining why that's great in just two reasons but I realize that I have a lot to say about a cartoon rat getting hitched, so here's a brief list of reasons why Mr. Ratburn's wedding is great for all of us:
- Arthur has always been a show that teaches and challenges kids to be respectful of others and recognize that the world is vast and round and contains a multitude of people all of whom deserve kindness and understanding whether they're straight, gay, or Matt Damon conceptualized as a cartoon aardvark. In that way, Mr. Ratburn's coming out and being accepted is just one more way the cartoon is teaching the kids who watch it regularly that "love is love" and that we all just need to let people live their lives.
- This isn't the first time the show has handled what some would view as a "sensitive topic." Aside from broaching the subject of homosexuality in 2005 (Arthur's friend Buster met a lesbian couple to great outrage), the show has navigated a variety of topics that are both difficult and necessary for kids to understand — including cancer, dyslexia, and even what it's like to deal with a tragedy (inspired by the events of 9/11) — in a sensitive way. And while I'd like to say that "some people are gay" shouldn't be a "sensitive topic," it still is. Having kids see a character they trust and love come out without any frills is a nice way for them to learn that there's really not a difference between people (or rats) who have different sexual orientations. They're still the same people you've always loved.
- This is exactly the type of nuance those who are always demanding that media add "LGBT+ characters organically" instead of "shoehorning them in" claim they want. While you'll undoubtedly see some criticism from folks who think that this episode was "driving an agenda" and "shoving homosexuality" down kids' throats, the reality is that this is exactly how sexual orientation should be discussed in the media. Mr. Ratburn's character wasn't reduced to just his sexual orientation. It was just something he revealed about himself. And it was no big deal. The kids couldn't care less about the gender of Mr. Ratburn's intended. All they cared about was that he married someone kind. Their biggest worry: That Mr. Ratburn's dance moves are very embarrassing. I wish I had that kind of message when I was coming out in the early '00s. I bet a lot of other people who identify as LGBT+ do, too.
Of course, the biggest surprise for many people isn't that Mr. Ratburn is gay; it's that "Arthur" is still airing new episodes in 2019.
I think the biggest surprise about Mr. Ratburn from Arthur being gay is that I'm just now finding out that Arthur is still coming out with new episodes.
— Erica Mendez (@tsunderica) May 14, 2019
It's also igniting some serious nostalgia vibes.
Today, Mr. Ratburn's marriage is news because he's gay, but the overwhelmingly positive response the episode's gotten shows that we're moving in a new direction. That representation matters. And that more and more LGBT+ characters are becoming people (and rats) rather than just tropes. I just wish they'd invite us all to their weddings.