Sexual Identity in Children’s Cartoons

The keyword “Image” has perhaps the most dual meanings of any we have examined this semester. Nathalie first acknowledges it’s meaning as describing the “image, in terms of likeness and stature” of any object or person. But the abstractions of image, especially as they apply to cultural texts, take on many more meanings. Images do not necessarily have to represent reality, and are cursed with always being facsimiles of the real things that they are representing. Therefore, when texts portray images that reflect the real world, it can bring into question the issue of not only what is being portrayed in a text as right, morally or otherwise, but also of who is witnessing that representation, and so what message it’s presentation implies. In the recent premiere of the 22nd season of the children’s public television show Arthur, a main character, Mr. Ratburn, a teacher of the main cast of child characters, is married to his male partner. This inclusion has stirred age-old controversy about the appropriateness of publicly airing material containing ideas and images that some viewers do not want to see. In this case, being a children’s show, it is also a matter of this content being unwanted by parents for their kids to see, which is a further level of complication about the rights of a small group to dictate the boundaries of representation not only for themselves but over others who have no direct say in the matter. The moral panic involving children is one of the first arguments aired by those who disagree with choices like the show Arthur made. That is the real question that the fallout from this episode represents, that of if representation is a “culture war”, intentioned or not to mold the values of a society, or if it is simply the portrayal of an image of real section of real culture presented to accurately reflect the society that the work of fiction is drawing from.


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