Everyone remembers their favorite Aardvark on television, Arthur Read. We also remember the supporting characters such as Mom, Dad, D.W., Baby Kate, and the grandparents, Grandpa Dave and Grandma Thora. This is a typical family where both parents work; the dad is a caterer and the mom does accounting. The family resides in Elwood City and they are very loving, disciplined, and supportive. In every episode, we get to learn how to interact, solve conflicts on our own, and just be a friend. Arthur has seven friends, Buster Baxter, Francine Frensky, the Brain, Binky Barnes, George, Muffy Crosswire, Sue Ellen Armstrong, Jenna, and Prunella the fourth grader. These kids are your typical third graders. We see these kids go to school at Elwood City Elementary, they ride their bikes everywhere, and they play sports from Basketball, to Kickball, to Baseball.
“Arthur”, has run for twenty seasons and that is a really good record, especially for children’s television. Arthur is educational television, and the reason kids love “Arthur” so much is because it treats kids like adults and neither talks down to them nor does it underestimate their intelligence. Every kid on the show has a life situation that makes them different from everyone else. In the beginning of one episode, kids are being made fun of, but later they learn that everyone is different. More specifically, the pilot episode reveals the story of when Arthur got glasses. Francine teases Arthur by repeatedly calling him “four eyes.” Arthur tries to lose his glasses, but they keep coming back. Arthur then talks to his dad, and afterward chooses to go to school and prove he is not afraid to be the kid who wears glasses.
Arthur has friends who have unorthodox situations that make their lives different from everyone else. Buster Baxter lives in a condo with his mom and his parents are divorced, so he doesn’t get to see his dad that often. When he does get to see his dad, he goes travelling around the world with him. Eventually, Buster Baxter gets his own show, “Postcards from Buster”!
Sue Ellen Armstrong is not one of Arthur’s best friends, but she is the new kid at Elwood City Elementary in Mr. Ratburn’s fourth grade class. Sue Ellen reveals her life situation in the episode “Kids are from Earth, Parents are from Pluto.” Her father is a Diplomat, so her family has lived around the world in many different countries. In this episode, Sue Ellen begs her mother and father to “Just Be Normal!” by making her mother wear a dress she wore to a funeral instead of a hip outfit from another country. Eventually, Sue Ellen lets her parents share stories of when they lived in Africa to the parents and kids and the mother leads the other parents in doing an African Drum Dance.
“Arthur” teaches kids the importance of friendship. We learn that friendship does not revolve around what friends have in common possession- wise, but bonding and difference are what make friendships happen. Muffy Crosswire is the richest girl in town. Her father, Ed Crosswire is a successful car salesman in Elwood City. Muffy lives in a mansion with her mother and father, and she rides to school in a limousine. Muffy has a pool inside her house, a butler, and a bedroom any third grade girl would dream of having. Her best friend, Francine Frensky, has a completely different life situation. Francine Frensky lives in an apartment building with her mom, dad, and older sister, Catherine. Francine’s father is a garbage collector and her mother works as well. Francine’s family is Jewish, and in some episodes there are lessons about the Jewish culture. One episode has Francine questioning whether she should be starving on Yom Kippur, and another episode Francine is sneaking out from her cousin’s Bar-Mitzvah to compete in the bowling tournament. A very adult lesson found by this friendship is that Muffy and Francine do not judge one another for their financial situations or possessions. These girls care about who they are and how they treat one another.
“Arthur” was the most popular show when I was growing up. This show treats kids like adults, and the way the show interprets how kids really behave and think is how the show gives examples of both kids’ paranoia and imagination. On one of the most famous episodes, “Arthur’s Lost Library Book,” Arthur loses a library book that every other kid fought him to check out because Arthur already had enough books. Arthur is panicking because he can’t find the book, and he starts having scary dreams about not being able to check out library books and he is convinced he will be haunted by scary ghosts.The show even teaches us that kids are always fear an adult, or group of kids is out to get them, but usually that is not the case. One thing I always love about kid’s shows is that it always turns out fine. “Arthur” shows kids how to not borrow trouble and let it turn out fine, even without an adult right there with them. In “Arthur,” the kids are always seen riding bikes together, hanging out at the library and constantly checking out books, and getting ice cream at the Sugar Bowl.
“Arthur” is seen as a very educational show and very beneficial for kids to watch. “Experiences in the media are the relatively straightforward interactions people have with the media they consume. They can express in more or less detail their reasons for watching and listening, the kinds of things they have seen and heard, what they have learned or experienced there and what they think the outcomes have been.” (p. 108) The International Handbook of Children, Media, and the Culture has a great explanation of how media affects children’s thinking and intelligence. Shows that display false reality and inappropriate/immature behavior destroy’s kids intelligence. Kids are smart, kids can be funny, and “Arthur” is a good show for role model behavior that kids can get a fine influence on behavior and morality.
People, myself included, who are adolescent and young adult still look at “Arthur” as a very popular show and that is very relaxing. Children’s Media tends to keep kids in one little fantastical world, while “Arthur” has brings t kids into awareness of Pop Culture. “Arthur” has famous guest stars/characters on the show for their own episodes. Guest stars include Mr. Rogers, YoYo Ma, Art Garfunkel, Michelle Kwan, the Backstreet Boys, Alex Trebek, Larry King, Lance Armstrong, featured Red Sox Players Johnny Damon, Mike Timlin, and Edgar Renteria, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Mike Fincke, Jack Prelutsky, Neil Gaiman, Tom and Ray Magliozzi, Joshua Redman, Matt Damon, Brian Novak, and Joan Rivers (buzzfeed). It is really impressive the show introduces kids to these famous figures and lets kids be a part of the pop culture world, and they can learn about icons who are good celebrity influences for all people.
I think a majority of the reason “Arthur” has been extremely successful for twenty years is because of how the show treats kids as adults. The show focuses on believing in yourself and working with the people in your life to make things better. And I say, Hey!
Hoover, M. Stoover, Clark, Schoefield Lynn (Children and Media in the Context of Home and Family) The International Handbook of Children, Media, and Culture. Edited by Kristen Dronter and Sonia Livinston Sage Publishing 2008
Nigatu, Heben 17 Famous People who Guest Starred on “Arthur” Buzzfeed 2013