Thursday, January 27, 2005

why does the secretary of education hate bunny rabbits?

my sister tipped me off yesterday to this msnbc article about the pbs kids show "postcards from buster", a spinoff of "arthur" where buster, an animated bunny, goes around filming live action families doing educational stuff... you know, like when mr rogers visited the ranch or the factory, only with an animated bunny.

turns out that in an upcoming episode, buster visits some vermont families that show him how maple syrup and cheese are made. sounds educational? well apparently not. and the reason it's not educational is... because the families happen to be headed by lesbian couples.

not that words like "gay" or "queer" or "homosexual" or "hot girl-on-girl action" actually appear in the episode: they don't. but even having these women and their families in the show has apparently queered up the episode to such an extent that pbs will not distribute it to their affiliates. pbs claims the fact that they received hate mail from bush's brand new education secretary margaret spellings about the episode is entirely coincidental and has nothing to do with the fact that the show was pulled that same day. and if you're gullible enough to believe that, you're probably in the preschool demographic that watches "postcards from buster".

the washington post explains in more detail:

Spellings, who has been charged with the difficult task of fixing the nation's troubled public education system, took time out on her second day on the job to fire off a letter to PBS CEO Pat Mitchell expressing "strong and very serious concerns" about the "Postcards From Buster" episode. Specifically that, in the episode, called "Sugartime!," the animated asthmatic little bunny visits Vermont and meets actual, real-live, not make-believe children there who have gay parents.


At one of the homes, Buster is introduced to all of the children and to the two moms. One girl explains that one of the women is her "stepmom," whom she says she loves a lot.

One of the women asks the kids to get some maple syrup and some cheese for dinner, and to stop by the other home to borrow a big lasagna pan. In the other home, Buster is introduced to the whole family, including two more moms. Then the kids head off to get the ingredients, and Buster learns where syrup and cheese come from.

where do syrup and cheese come from? they come from queers! we must protect our children from the insidious dangers of gay cheddar!

"You should also know," Spellings says, "that two years ago the Senate Appropriations Committee raised questions about the accountability of funds appropriated for Ready-To-Learn programs." A bit ominous, we think.

"We believe the 'Sugartime!' episode does not come within these purposes or within the intent of Congress and would undermine the overall objective of the Ready-To-Learn program -- to produce programming that reaches as many children and families as possible," Spellings wrote.

Why, you might wonder, given that preschoolers who watch the episode learn how maple syrup and cheese are made, not to mention useful English-language phrases (the series is also designed to help children for whom English is a second language).

Because, Spellings explained in her letter, "many parents would not want their young children exposed to the life-styles portrayed in this episode." She did not say how many is "many," or cite a source for that information.

Congress's point in funding this programming "certainly was not to introduce this kind of subject matter to children," she added.

Au contraire, says WGBH, which produces "Postcards." The Boston public TV station says it will air the episode and has offered it to any station willing to defy the Education Department, which, in fairness, did shovel out major bucks for this series and, therefore, understandably feels it has the right to get in its two conservative cents' worth.

According to Brigid Sullivan, WGBH's vice president of children's programming, the RFP -- that's government-speak for request for proposals -- on the show said Ready-to-Learn was looking for a program that would "appeal to all of America's children by providing them with content and or characters with which they can identify. Diversity will be incorporated into the fabric of the series to help children understand and respect differences and learn to live in a multicultural society. The series will avoid stereotypical images of all kinds and show modern multi-ethnic/lingual/cultural families and children."

Except, it would seem, children who have two mothers.

like we learned from the spongebob attacks, tolerance and understanding do not apply to homosexuals. i guess wgbh didn't get the memo until this week.

We asked all parties involved what they would say to the children who were filmed for this episode, and who expected to be seen on national TV and are now being told by the federal government that their families are not fit for other children to see on national TV -- at least not on any show that has received federal funding.

here's what you tell them: the president hates you.

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