A New York Times article, and also a WorldMag Blog post are reporting today that the airing of an episode of the PBS childrens' program "Postcards From Buster" was cancelled due to the presence of a lesbian couple. The show was schedule for February 2, but was not distributed to affiliates on time due to controversy surrounding its content. One PBS station, WGBH-TV Boston, has decided to air the program anyway, and distribute it to other PBS stations. According to the NYT article, "'Postcards From Buster' is a spinoff of 'Arthur' that combines live action and animation and went on the air a year ago. In the series, aimed at young elementary schoolchildren, Buster travels to 24 different states with his father and sends video postcards home ... One episode featured a family with five children, living in a trailer in Virginia, all sharing one room. In another, Buster visits a Mormon family in Utah. He has dropped in on fundamentalist Christians and Muslims as well as American Indians and Hmong. He has shown the lives of children who have only one parent, and those who live with grandparents." Strangely enough, I've decided that I support the airing of this episode. Let me tell you why.
The purpose of "Postcards From Buster" is to expose children to the cultural diversity of the United States. As I quoted above, Mormons, "fundamentalist" Christians, and Muslims have already appeared on the show. Exposure to other cultures and beliefs is a healthy part of a child's development, and Arthur's target audience, 2nd - 4th graders (which I presume is the same as Buster's audience), are about the right age to start begin being exposed to a wide variety of different cultures and lifestyles. We need to come to terms with the fact that there exist people, living in the United States, who live in homosexual "civil unions" and believe that their behavior is morally acceptable. This is a fact. The content of the episode was not sexual in any way. The lesbian couple are merely in the background - Buster's own parents are divorced, and he has visited children who live with one parent, both parents, or one or more grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. The focus is on the children. Now, Buster visits a family in Vermont in which the children, for reasons left unexplained, have "two mommies." There really are such families, and they really live in Vermont. We need to come to grips with this. Children who see this program will probably ask their parents about it (if they even notice), and the parents are free to explain it to them in the same way they would explain polygamy if a child saw it on the Discovery Channel: "Yes, Johnny, some people in some parts of the world believe that it's ok for women to marry women and men to marry men, but we don't believe that." Provoking children to ask questions that help them learn about the world is exactly what public television children's programming has always been about, and it's good. So stop freaking out.Posted by Kenny at January 27, 2005 6:22 PM
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