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PBS invites kids to same-sex wedding

A long-running cartoon joins the crowd in attempting to normalize homosexuality in children’s media

A scene from the “Mr. Ratburn and His Special Friend” episode of Arthur PBS

PBS invites kids to same-sex wedding

Children watching the 22nd season premiere of the PBS Kids program Arthur on Monday witnessed something parents who once consumed the long-running cartoon never did: a same-sex wedding.

In the episode titled “Mr. Ratburn and His Special Friend,” Arthur the anthropomorphic aardvark and his friends have a hard time believing their beloved third-grade teacher, who is a rat, is getting married. But they are seemingly unfazed when they learn Mr. Ratburn’s betrothed is a male character, an aardvark and local chocolatier named Patrick. After the wedding, Arthur says, “I still can’t believe it,” and his friend Francine responds, “It’s a brand-new world.”

Indeed it is, and the Arthur episode drew barely a shrug from some parents witnessing the steady normalization of same-sex marriage in children’s content. “It wasn’t even surprising. Nor should it have been,” wrote G. Shane Morris for BreakPoint.

PBS, which is taxpayer-funded, has portrayed same-sex couples in its children’s programming before. In 2005, PBS pulled an episode from an Arthur spin-off, Postcards from Buster, that featured a lesbian couple in Vermont, where same-sex civil unions were legal at the time, after Margaret Spellings, then–U.S. secretary of education, cited “very serious concern.”

This week, a petition to remove the new Arthur episode by One Million Moms, a division of the American Family Association, has already garnered nearly 16,000 signatures.

But Christians should not expect much reaction from PBS, according to Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a WORLD News Group board member. “We are experiencing massive moral change in the United States, and Arthur just becomes the latest cartoon … that makes that clear,” he said on his podcast The Briefing on Thursday.

Maria Vera Whelan, senior director of marketing, communications, and social media for children’s media and education at PBS, said the network’s children’s programs are “designed to reflect the diversity of communities across the nation.” In a statement obtained by The New York Times, she said, “We believe it’s important to represent the wide array of adults in the lives of children who look to PBS Kids every day.”

Now that same-sex marriage is legal nationwide, efforts to normalize it increasingly reach preschool-aged children, whom the culture expects to express the same indifference Arthur and his friends do as they come across LGBT portrayals in books, TV shows, movies, and public school curricula.

“The moral messaging is not only that you should see this and declare it to be normal, but that something is wrong with you and you are badly out of step if you do not celebrate what is here being depicted,” Mohler said.

In 2017, the Disney Channel depicted a same-sex couple kissing in an episode of the animated series Star vs. the Forces of Evil, and Disney series Andi Mack portrayed a 13-year-old character who comes out as gay. The 2017 remake of Beauty and the Beast included an “undeniably present” gay moment between LeFou and Gaston, wrote WORLD movie reviewer Megan Basham.

A more subtle example: In March, Leo Espinosa, illustrator for beloved Christian author Sally Lloyd-Jones’ book Goldfish on Vacation, acknowledged a discreet depiction of a same-sex couple in its pages. “Expect much more,” he tweeted. (Jones, author of the bestselling The Jesus Storybook Bible, deleted a supportive tweet that caused its own stir, which she has not yet clarified.)

For parents, Morris said retreating to a “Christian ghetto” is no longer an option, but neither is letting children blithely consume once-trusted public television programs, books displayed at the library, or Disney movies.

The battle for children’s hearts and minds is waged primarily at home, and Morris depicts a “quieter kind of catechesis” happening with his own kids that entails teaching them the truth about sexuality and gender and relying on resources that reinforce those beliefs—his children prefer Adventures in Odyssey over Arthur.

Meanwhile, a growing number of Christian children’s authors are tackling gender and sexuality, offering discussion starting points. God’s Design (P&R Publishing, 2016), by Sally Michael and Gary Steward, gives a Biblical perspective on manhood and womanhood, and in September, Marty Machowski releases God Made Boys and Girls: Helping Children Understand the Gift of Gender (New Growth Press), geared for ages 3 to 8.

A scene from Unplanned

A scene from Unplanned PureFlix

Canada gives Unplanned the cold shoulder

Canada has effectively snuffed a theatrical debut of the pro-life film Unplanned, but that didn’t stop nearly 3,000 people from gathering to watch the movie on Tuesday at its first private screening in Edmonton, Alberta.

Citing the movie’s pro-life content, Canada’s two largest movie theater chains blocked the film, and producers have been unable to find a distributor, according to Unplanned director Chuck Konzelman. “They see excluding us from Canada as ‘positive good’ … effectively enacting de facto censorship, without right of appeal,” he told Grandin Media. Canada is one of the few countries with no legal protections for the unborn at all. Abortions in the country are allowed at all stages of pregnancy

Despite facing its share of hurdles in the United States, Unplanned, a story about former Planned Parenthood facility manager Abby Johnson’s conversion to the pro-life movement, has still grossed more than $18 million since its release on March 29.

At the film’s private screening at the Edmonton Expo Center, a free event hosted by Harvest Ministries International, one of the film’s producers, Sheila Hart, told the crowd, “This is a key moment in Canada’s history. We believe that hope will rise and the country will claim justice for the unborn.” —M.J.

A scene from Unplanned

A scene from Unplanned PureFlix

A solid strategy

Disney is continuing its forward assault in the streaming wars by cutting a deal with Comcast to buy up all remaining stock in Hulu. Disney got about one-third of Hulu’s stock when it bought the entertainment assets of 21st Century Fox earlier this year, adding to the one-third stake it already owned. The Comcast deal puts Hulu entirely in Disney’s hands, giving it a powerful position from which to take on Netflix.

Later this year, Disney is expected to pull all of its content from Netflix and move most of it to a new streaming service, Disney Plus. Hulu has current seasons of network shows that release week by week (with a slight delay), while Netflix usually waits and releases a season’s or even a series’ worth of episodes all at once. In 2017, the Hulu original series The Handmaid’s Tale beat out three Netflix originals—The Crown, House of Cards, and Stranger Things—for best drama at the prime-time Emmys. Netflix has sat on the streaming throne for so long, the thought of a traditional entertainment company challenging it for first place once seemed laughable. But with Hulu, Disney Plus, and a cache of popular franchises that includes The Avengers, Star Wars, all the Pixar movies, and even The Simpsons, Disney might have set in motion a power play that can’t be beat. —Lynde Langdon

A scene from Unplanned

A scene from Unplanned PureFlix

Defending Stan Lee

A former business manager of Stan Lee has been charged in California with five counts of elder abuse involving the late Marvel Comics mastermind. Los Angeles County prosecutors last week charged 43-year-old Keya Morgan with theft, embezzlement, forgery or fraud against an elder adult, and false imprisonment of an elder adult. Lee’s daughter filed a request for a restraining order last year accusing Morgan of manipulating the mentally declining Lee, preventing him from seeing family and friends, and trying to take control of his money and business affairs. Morgan denies the accusations.

Lee, who died on Nov. 12, 2018, was the co-creator of characters such as Spider-Man, Iron Man, and The Incredible Hulk and was for decades the face of Marvel Comics. His movie cameos, still emerging after his death in films like Avengers: Endgame, are a beloved element of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. —L.L.

Tiger troubles

Just a week after President Donald Trump honored him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, golfer Tiger Woods was sued for the wrongful death of a former bartender at a restaurant he owns. Nicholas F. Immesberger, 24, died Dec. 10, 2018, in a car crash while driving home intoxicated from The Woods restaurant in Jupiter, Fla. In the lawsuit filed Monday, the bartender’s parents claim that Erica Herman, Woods’ girlfriend and the general manager of the restaurant, knew Immesberger was an alcoholic when she hired him and that workers at the restaurant over-served him drinks the night of his death despite knowing his condition.

“We’re all very sad that Nick passed away,” Woods said when asked about the case. “It was a terrible night, a terrible ending. And we feel bad for him and his entire family. It’s very sad.” —L.L.

Mary Jackson

Mary is a book reviewer and senior writer for WORLD. She is a World Journalism Institute and Greenville University graduate who previously worked for the Lansing (Mich.) State Journal. Mary resides with her family in the San Francisco Bay area.



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