As a kid growing up, there were few things I loved more than Iowa Public Television cartoons. From Redwall to Zoboomafoo and Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, IPTV had it all. My favorite show on IPTV was a show based on a series of children’s books created by Marc Brown called Arthur. In this show, our protagonist, Arthur the Aardvark experienced life as a 3rd grader and all the troubles that go along with it. Surrounded by an incredibly memorable group of friends, Arthur learned important life lessons in the span of about 11 minutes.
Now as I look back on the show as an example of diversity, I struggle to come up with a show that even comes close to the amount of diversity showcased in Arthur. Every single character has one or more unique aspects about them that sets them apart from those around them. The following is a list of some of the particularly diverse characters in Arthur:
- Buster the Rabbit: Buster is Arthur’s best friend. He’s sometimes portrayed as the “odd one” as he obsesses over aliens and uniquely shaped foods. He lives in a small apartment complex, denoting that his family is not very wealthy. Perhaps most unique about Buster is that his parents are divorced and he lives with his mom.
- Francine the Monkey: Francine is an especially unique character because, while she may be a girl, her talents are showcased in activities boys are typically good at. All of the sports the children play as a team include both boys and girls, and Francine is shown always dominating in these sports. Additionally, Francine is Jewish and occasionally finds herself in situations where she has to act differently from her friends because of her faith, specifically when there was an episode on Yom Kippur.
- Binky the Bulldog: Binky is portrayed as the “tough guy” in the show, often depicted bullying or forcefully getting his way. However, it is revealed that Binky was held back in school and feels the need to make up for his scholastic incompetence by showing off his physical domination. In fact, Binky is almost virtuosic on the clarinet and actually does have some bright moments. Additionally, Binky goes through a multi-episode story arc in which his family goes through the adoption process to adopt a baby from China.
Marc Brown and the writers of Arthur have created an environment that overflows with diversity. Every type of family is showcased and different races are always present. I believe that one of the purposes of the show is to demonstrate to children that diverse people live and work together every day and that while our diversity makes us different from one another, it doesn’t mean we can’t also love one another.