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Laura Reviews: Arthur
Arthur is a cartoon on PBS based on an amusing children's book series about an insecure aardvark and his life, dealing with the pressures of a third-grade teacher who loves giving tests just a little TOO much (if ya know what I mean), an annoying little sister by the name of D.W., the punks at school, and other everyday middle class tribulations.
General Character Analysis: As always, I curl into a little ball and weep despairingly at the one-dimensional characters. The Brain is a prime example. He's just that- A Brain. Know how you know he's smart? He uses big words where smaller ones would be adequate, or even more appropriate. His lines are just like all the other lines, except the writers put every word through the thesaurus and replaced it with the biggest synonym.
Other examples of characters with at best 1 1/2 dimensions are: Mr. Ratburn, who's just a teacher; Muffy, whose personality is that she's rich; and Prunella and her sister, whose personalities are both Ouija board.
And what's up with that moose kid? He's nothing. He's a non-factor. He has no dimensions. Every once in awhile, he has a single line, or you see his family celebrating St. Lucretia's Day. Then you just feel kind of guilty because let's face it, you always forget the moose.
Most of the main characters are sadly lacking in dimensions, too. I mean, what is Arthur's personality beyond the fact that he's just kind of an ass? They try hard, though. So eager were they, for example, to show off Binky the Bully's soft gooshy side, that they forgot to really stress the fact that he's supposed to be a bully. So really he's just a soft gooshy guy and you feel kind of embarrassed for the Ally Sheedy bunny and the other two bullies, treating him as an equal like that.
I liked D.W. for awhile. She's got spunk. But there's only so much you can take before you get a little spunked out. And anyway, some of the things she does are really annoying.
I like Francine. Even when I couldn't name what animal she was, and my friend Rory pointed out she could be nothing else but a monkey. I don't want her to be a monkey. Somehow monkeys just don't fit with the other animal types. But I'll get into the animal thing later.
The reason I like Francine is because (and of course I would say this, in a sing-songy voice) she's gon-na be a les-bi-an. And I don't just think that because she's kind of a tomboy, her father calls her Frankie, and she has rarely, if ever, been seen in a dress. No, I base this much more on the fact that when it's necessary to dress up, she wears a suit. A suit! I love girls in suits! A girl with no brothers doesn't go to that much trouble, to get a suit and wear it around, nay, MULTIPLE suits, unless she's serious about the suit-wearing. Why, Francine is just a little baby dyke, or maybe--dare I hope?--a little transy caterpillar, waiting to bloom into the sweet, sweet butterfly of the drag king. I mean, she wore a suit to Prunella's birthday party! With a little waistcoat and everything! And if she had a problem with dressing up, it wasn't really necessary to dress up for a third-grader's birthday party. Sure, I can see if you're Muffy, and you want to show off your new dress, you take the opportunity, but if you don't want to, you don't. And Francine wore a suit. That proves she likes it, doesn't it?
Who knows what the future holds for Francine... and for you.
Major Creep-Outs: Okay, now it's time to get into the animal thing.
The segregation issues on Arthur frighten me just a little bit. Each family is a different animal, and the whole family is that animal. Including the extended family. So what does this mean? You can't marry outside your species? With so many species jumbled together in an urban area, it seems like it would be precious hard to find someone of the same animal you were allowed to love, and whether you loved them or not, you kind of have to marry them. Unless, of course, inbreeding is a common practice, which is even creepier.
Also, a bunch of the Arthur kids have pets; Arthur, for example, has a dog, and Francine has a cat. Hold on! How are aardvarks and monkeys naturally superior to dogs and cats? Hey, wait a second! BINKY is a dog! And Suellen is a cat! Could Francine one day just clamp a collar on Suellen and force her into subservience? Well, I guess she could, provided they were both consenting adults, but... well, how about in the non-kinky way? And if not--if there's some sort of difference between pet cats and feline beings--well, where do we draw the line? There are some important issues here that are just not being addressed! I WANT ANSWERS!
... Doesn't look like I'm gonna get any, so we'll move right along.
Another thing that's a little creepy how they hint about who's going to go out with whom in the future. They don't do it much, and they try to leave it open, but every once in awhile--especially in earlier episodes--you can catch a little something here and there. Like once there was a flash-forward, not even a daydreamy sequence, a real flash to the actual future, and Arthur and Francine were old, and they were sitting side-by-side in rocking chairs in a living room, watching an old video of school friends and wondering whatever happened to them. Whoa! How do Arthur and Francine end up together? At first I was bitter, because the obvious hint was that they would get married or something, which is not only bad news because of my hopes for Francine's future, but also because I can't stand it when people on TV end up with the kids they've gone to school with all their lives. Just because there's a limited number of people on the show, doesn't mean they all have to end up with each other! There's so many more possibilities for a person's life, and I wish just once we, as a society, would be taught that you don't necessarily have to end up marrying someone because you have kind of an on-and-off relationship with them in high school or, in this case, middle or even elementary school.
Further examination of the scene proved that it could be interpreted another way entirely, a way which was actually good for my queer-theory-ness. Obviously, to end up in side-by-side rocking chairs, Arthur and Francine do a good deal of bonding later in their school life. And why is this? Maybe they're both thrown together with some common bond... a bond that, maybe, grows stronger as all the other students ridicule them for this trait. You know, like maybe they're both... I dunno...
UNUSUALLY MEDIOCRE AT STANDARDIZED TESTING???
Just kidding. Of course they're both gay.
I mean, come on. Arthur just kind of boring. He's sort of a nerd, but the Brain overshadows him in that. He just reads a lot. He's bookish. Of course he's gay! It all makes sense.
Arthur is on PBS every afternoon after school. If anyone asks, your little sister D.W. watches it. If they know what you're talking about, you've found yourself a fellow Arthurite; unless, of course, their little sister really DOES watch it, or they remember the books from when they were young. Then they will punch you in the nose for your smartass answer..
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