Hi 81 / Lo 73
|Volume 70, Issue 79,
Thursday, January 27, 2005
Are gay characters too much for PBS cartoon?
Any mention of homosexuality and children's programming on PBS is more likely to incite laughter and Tinky Winky references than serious discussion. The issue is back on the table, however, and this time the implications are a bit subtler.
The Associated Press reported Wednesday on a recent controversy at PBS over a guest appearance by two couples on the cartoon Postcards from Buster. PBS has decided not to distribute the episode to its 349 stations across the country at the behest of Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, who said the episode doesn't give the mandated attention to "research-based educational objectives, content and materials."
In the episode, Buster the bunny, the main character, heads to Vermont to learn about farm life and maple sugaring, encountering what viewers understand to be two lesbian couples along the way. The Education Department feels that sexuality of such a nature is better left for parents to teach to children.
But why is it inappropriate to feature something that's a fact of life in a cartoon? Assuming the lesbian characters didn't engage in any behavior that a straight couple on the show wouldn't, it's unlikely that children will suffer, especially considering the often-questionable content of other children's programming. Given the reasonable bounds of good taste, it's the job of PBS to educate, not to shelter.
Of course, many parents don't want such questions raised, and that's their prerogative. The best solution for them is probably a few feet away: the remote control. And if they're not monitoring what their kids are watching on TV, they don't have the right to complain about programming content.
The fact is, any sexual activity is a choice, but gender preference is not. Children are constantly exposed to much harsher versions of reality on television; a benign depiction of something almost any child could see in a supermarket shouldn't be a source of controversy.
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