The Lasting Impact of PBS Show “Arthur”

Every morning at 6:30 a.m. for about seven years straight, I sat in front of a black boxy television set, eyes glued to the screen as Arthur and his friends quipped through wacky adventures and important life lessons. Even today, the PBS hit show “Arthur” remains quotable, prominent, and timeless to many millennials. Here are several reasons why the show is so beloved.

Story by Natalie Heineman

The Meme-ability

Open up any social media site, and you will see photos from the television show “Arthur.” The generation that grew up with this aardvark and his assorted animal friends have managed to turn a beloved classic into a series of memes.

One Tumblr blog titled A is for Arthur, takes screenshots from the cartoon and re-captions them with more mature content. Take for example this one, with vibes from the “The Hangover:”

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Also, this one, reminiscent of “The Hunger Games:”

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While dark, these alterations reflect the changing attitudes of people who grew up watching “Arthur.” Millennials are nostalgic for entertainment from their childhood. With the resurgence of shows like “Fuller House” or “Gilmore Girls,” even Hollywood recognized this craving for  familiarity. Memes allow people to share commonly known entertainment in new, funny ways.

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The Nostalgia

“Arthur’s” famous guest stars encapsulated the atmosphere of the early 2000s. Athletes we read about in school like Michelle Kwan or Lance Armstrong voiced characters that helped Arthur and his friends navigate through their elementary school struggles. Cultured musicians including  Yo-Yo Ma and Art Garfunkel opened children’s eyes to different types of sound and music. Perhaps the most memorable guest star was Fred Rogers, star of another PBS hit show, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

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Aside from guest stars, “Arthur” also featured pop culture moments from the time period. The creators animated episodes parodying “Beavis and Butthead,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” and even “South Park.” None of these shows were meant  for children, but they allowed children to become a part of the adult world. We were exposed at an early age to adult cultural events, but in a fun and safe atmosphere.

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The Life Lessons

“Arthur” instilled a love of reading in children. The TV series is based on the books by Marc Brown and aired on PBS, which encourages literary. From Brain’s “Jekyll Jekyll Hyde” ballad to the group musical “Having Fun Isn’t Hard, When You’ve Got a Library Card,” “Arthur” used music and catchy lyrics to encourage reading.

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On top of reading, kids also learned important lessons on how to treat others. Managing sibling relations, standing up to bullies, and growing up were addressed in the show. With plotlines like Francine creating her own gossip magazine and alienating her friends to Arthur’s body image issues before he begins eating healthy, the episodes delved the serious issue while remaining entertaining for children. “Arthur” made sure characters, regardless of their backgrounds, got along and practiced forgiveness and kindness towards one another.

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The Familiar in the New

There is a certain comfort in knowing everyone goes through the same struggles. As children, we witnessed the characters in “Arthur” experience the same troubles we were, from D.W.’s picky eating to Buster’s distaste for hygiene. Even as adults, we face the same basic issues. Several quotes from the show are applicable, even ten to fifteen years later.

When life hits you hard:

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When your professor says Wikipedia is not a reliable source:

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When your friend is having trouble finding affordable rent:

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When all your friends start talking about politics:

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When you convince your roommate to take out the trash:

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When you pretend to be caught up on the latest music:

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A Lasting Effect

There is something about “Arthur” that makes it different from other shows we grew up with.  No one is holding their breath for a “Liberty’s Kids” article, even though it was my personal favorite PBS Kids show. “Arthur” is special. Maybe it is the vast number of characters. We can find a little bit of ourselves in each personality. Maybe it is the  intelligent humor that allowed children to learn new ideas in a fun way. Whatever makes “Arthur” unique, this beloved TV show will live on forever in our hearts.

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