Top 10 Times When Arthur Tackled Serious Issues



Top 10 Times When Arthur Tackled Serious Issues

VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Nick Spake
For a PBS show, "Arthur" tackled a lot of serious issues. For this list, we'll be looking at times when “Arthur” was much more than a kids' show, addressing important topics in a way that all ages can understand. Our countdown includes natural disasters, banning books, PTSD, and more!

Top 10 Times When Arthur Tackled Serious Issues

Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Times When Arthur Tackled Serious Issues.

For this list, we’ll be looking at times when “Arthur” was much more than a kids’ show, addressing important topics in a way that all ages can understand.

Which serious issue do you think “Arthur” took on the best? Let us know in the comments.

#10: Natural Disasters
“Shelter From the Storm”

Since “Arthur” first aired, the world has seen its fair share of natural disasters. Three years after Hurricane Sandy devastated several countries, Hurricane Sadie hit Arthur’s home of Elwood City. Although many Elwood residents prepare for the storm, they discover just how unpredictable hurricanes can be. The story provides several perspectives that kids can identify with. Arthur is worried about the pets left behind, Ladonna struggles with abandonment when his father is called to duty, Brain sees a therapist (voiced by Idina Menzel) about his fears, and Muffy finds that no matter how bleak things get, you should consider those who might have it worse. The episode encourages us to practice compassion during difficult times and reminds children affected by disasters that they aren’t alone.

#9: The Environment
“The Cherry Tree”

Several “Arthur” episodes have tackled the environment, but “The Cherry Tree” is perhaps the most informative. It’s also probably the most unsettling, opening with Arthur imagining the trees around him disappearing. To make room for a bouncy castle in her backyard, Muffy inadvertently gets her favorite cherry tree chopped down. We like that Muffy didn’t set out to cut down the tree, showing how our actions can have environmental consequences that we never even considered. Muffy feels even worse upon learning how trees remove carbon dioxide from the air. A world with fewer trees increases the dangers of climate change. Although Muffy can’t bring her tree back, she can use the cuttings to plant more trees and make the world a cleaner place.

#8: Banning Books
“The Scare-Your-Pants-Off Club”

Believe it or not, “Goosebumps” was among the most challenged children’s books to come out of the 90s. This is reflected in a Season 1 “Arthur” episode when Muffy’s fathers leads a charge to remove the “Scare-Your-Pants-Off” books from shelves. As Arthur and his friends protest, it’s revealed that Mr. Crosswire never even read the books he’s content on banning. He blames the books for giving Muffy nightmares, although her bad dreams are really rooted in her father’s hasenpfeffer ice cream. The episode mirrors how many parents immediately point their fingers at popular media rather than - you know - talk to their kids and take personal responsibility. While Mr. Crossfire learns a lesson, books are still being banned and challenged, demonstrating how relevant this episode remains.

#7: Misinformation on the Internet
“Buster the Myth Maker”

The internet can be a great resource for research. With the rise of social media, though, it can also be a tool for spreading misinformation and baseless conspiracy theories. “Arthur” was ahead of the curve, touching upon this timely issue back in 2005. Buster gets all of his celebrity gossip and hot tips online. Among other far-fetched things, he reads that tigers are in the park. Arthur is skeptical since… well, literally anyone can post anything on the internet, regardless of whether it’s true. They later learn that Brain started the tiger rumor, curious to see if people would believe it without a shred of evidence. Although “Arthur” is aimed at kids, we think a lot of adults today could benefit from this episode’s message.

#6: Growing Up with Divorced Parents
“Arthur’s Perfect Christmas”

While divorce was common in the 90s, we didn’t see it portrayed in many kid-friendly programs. “Arthur” helped normalize the subject, depicting Buster living with his single mother. Adding to the realism, Buster goes to stay with his father for an extended period during the second season. In addition to children, the series explored how divorce affects parents. Buster’s overworked mother feels pressured to give her son a perfect Christmas to compensate for his dad’s absence. To give his mom and himself a much-needed break, Buster suggests they instead celebrate Baxter Day, dedicating the 25th to relaxation. In another episode, Arthur and D.W. worry their parents might split up. The kids fear the worst, but the ending shows how important communication is among families.

#5: Autism Spectrum Disorder
“When Carl Met George”

There’s a common misconception that all people on the autism spectrum are unintelligent, need constant care, and don’t want friends. “Arthur” helped to shatter some of these myths through the introduction of Carl, a boy with Asperger’s Syndrome. Carl likes certain things a particular way, doesn’t always respond well to change, and forgets to say thank you. At the same time, Carl is quite intelligent, especially when it comes to trains. George finds that people like Carl see things differently than others. This can make social situations difficult for Carl. As Brain teaches George, though, that doesn’t mean people with Asperger’s can’t thrive. By learning more about Carl’s condition, George is able to make a connection and both boys grow from the friendship that blossoms.

#4: LGBTQ+ Marriage
“Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone”

You can see how much the childrens’ television landscape changed between “Arthur’s” earlier and later seasons. In the Season 22 premiere, it’s revealed that Mr. Ratburn is gay. Initially, Ratburn’s students assume that he’s marrying a pickly woman named Patty, voiced by Jane Lynch. As it turns out, Patty is only Ratburn’s sister/wedding planner. To the children’s relief, Ratburn’s betrothed is actually a kindly chocolate shop owner named Patrick. The kids never question that Ratburn has a same-sex partner, seeing it as 100% normal. This wasn’t the first time the franchise touched upon LGBTQ+ relationships, as see in “Postcards from Buster.” Nevertheless, seeing an iconic character come out was a major step forward in building a more accepting society.

#3: PTSD
“April 9th”

This episode aired just over a year after the U.S. faced its darkest day. The episode doesn’t directly reference the real-world event that inspired it, revolving around a fire at the school. However, audiences could still connect with the trauma the characters experience, especially if you lived in New York. Arthur fears that the next time his father leaves the house, he may not come back. Binky denies that the fire had any effect on him, concealing his panic attacks. Buster feels left out since he slept through the event, eventually finding that he was luckier than some others. While nobody died, Sue Ellen loses her journal. Although April 9th sticks with them, in time, everyone finds the strength to start a new page.

#2: Cancer
“The Great MacGrady”

We all respond to dire news in different ways. When Mrs. MacGrady is diagnosed with cancer, Arthur and D.W. offer their help, but they go a little overboard. Muffy underplays the situation until she realizes how serious cancer is. Having lost her grandfather to cancer, Francine is apprehensive about confronting Mrs. MacGrady. She receives encouragement from a cancer survivor, however. In the original Season 13 version, Francine meets Lance Armstrong, voiced by himself. Following Armstrong’s doping scandal, though, the creators decided to remake the episode with an original character, wrestler Uncle Slam. We’re glad a version is still in circulation. There are a lot of people this story can continue to help, whether they have cancer or know someone battling the disease.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Insecurity About Glasses, “Arthur’s Eyes”
Even In the First Episode, “Arthur” Had an Eye for Serious Issues

Distance Between Best Friends, “Arthur’s Faraway Friend”
The First of Several Episodes Without Buster

Death of a Pet, “So Long, Spanky”
R.I.P Spanky

Being Embarrassed About a Parent’s Job, “My Dad, The Garbage Man”
There’s No Shame in Being a Waste Collector

Mistreating Others, “The Last Tough Customer”
It’s Never Too Late to Break the Cycle

#1: Race & Peaceful Protests
“Arthur Takes a Stand”

Two years before passing away, civil rights activist and U.S. ​​House of Representatives member John Lewis lent his voice to “Arthur.” When Mrs. MacGrady is overworked and the school resists hiring extra help, Lewis inspires Arthur to make some good trouble. Others soon join Arthur’s sit-in protest and with Lewis’ arrival, MacGrady gets the assistance she deserves. It turns out MacGrady marched with Lewis in Washington. Like MacGrady, Lewis also had cancer, which sadly took his life. Not long after Lewis died, a special “Arthur” short was released in response to the murder of George Floyd. While some argue that children should be shielded from this serious issue, helping kids to understand and build empathy are the first steps in creating a better tomorrow.