January 27, 2005

First SpongeBob, now Arthur's Best Friend

I guess my kids can't watch TV anymore. Our favorite show, Postcards from Buster, a spin-off of Arthur, is now under fire.


Buster's show is part cartoon, part live-action. The premise is that Buster travels around the US with his Dad and meets all kinds of people and experiences new things. He takes his videocamera with him to document his adventures, and even blogs about them on his website. When he looks through the viewfinder, the people are live action. The show uses real families and real kids. Buster spends most of his time with the kids, but the parents are usually introduced and in the background.

One of the great things about Arthur is that it is more realistic than other kids' shows. Francine lives in an apartment and shares a room with her sister, versus the tradition 2-story colonial that all kids live in on TV. The shows explore the different religions of the kids, various health problems (lice, ashthma), and touchier subjects, like Buster's parents being divorced. Apparently, though, Buster's new show is too real for the new Education Secretary.

In an unaired episode, Buster goes to Vermont, meets a family that lives on a farm, and goes maple sugaring with the three kids. The problem is that the kids have two moms. (Vermont recognizes same-sex civil unions.) Both moms are shown briefly, doing mundane tasks such as making a grocery list. There is no conversation about their relationship, no moment of truth when Buster asks, "Why do you have two moms?" They are simply in the camera shot a couple of times.

Secretary Margaret Spellings stated that she was concerned that parents would not want their children to see the program. She has asked that the makers of the PBS show refund federal money that was used to make the show and not air the show. The Boston PBS affiliate that produced the show plans to air the show on March 23.

Obviously, federal funds come with strings in various settings, but I would hope that Spellings would reconsider this kind of content restriction. I can see where someone might get up in arms and believe that the makers of the show have personal political agendas and wanted to sneak in their own subliminal message. However, Postcards from Buster has portrayed an impressive diversity of families in its first year: racial diversity, religious diversity, including Muslims, Mormons, and Evangelical Christians, and geographic and socioeconomic diversity. So I can see how this episode fit into a pattern of wanting to show the realities of families in America.

My daughter goes to school with a boy who has "two moms." This is reality.

Posted by Christine at January 27, 2005 09:45 AM | Popular Culture