Margaret Spellings: America’s new ‘guardian of cultural values’ (credit: ED.gov)
It seems that Margaret Spellings wants to rise from the obscure miasma of her new Education Secretary portfolio and make a big splash among Bushite ideologues. So who does she choose as her whipping boy? Buster the Rabbit (see story Education Secretary Criticizes PBS Show With Gay Couples). Buster is the hero of Postcards from Buster, a PBS children’s program. He uses his video camera to introduce America’s children to homes he visits all over the country. The purpose of the program is to show children of all ethnic, economic and religious backgrounds within the context of their own homes and families and thus educate the children of the nation about people with backgrounds that differ from them. Sounds good as far as it goes. But Spellings thinks PBS went too far in introducing America’s kids to children raised in Lesbian families. “Whoa, don’t go there” says she.
Does Buster the Rabbit threaten America’s moral values?
(credit: WBGH/Cookiejar Entertainment)
We’ve grown to expect this type of phony political culture war language from right-wing Republicans. It’s a cheap and easy way of throwing red meat to their constituency and so divert attention from the disastrous mistakes of the Bush Administration which have real repercussions for real people (like Iraq). Is it any accident that she announced her attack on the same day that the U.S. had the highest loss of life among its troops since the war began?
But PBS’ abject retreat from supporting its program is a craven and unforgivable breach of artistic and cultural integrity. Listen to Wayne Godwin, PBS’s chief operating officer’s tortured and highly equivocal “defense” of the idea of incorporating gay characters into PBS children’s programming (as quoted in Culture Wars Pull Buster Into the Fray): “In fairness I would have to say a gay character is not one we would not include,” he said, and then clarified. “The fact that a character may or may not be gay is not a reason why they should or should not be part of this series.” Say what?? He then promptly capitulated when it came to defending the appearance of the gay couple in Postcards From Buster: “The presence of a couple [sic] headed by two mothers would not be appropriate curricular purpose that PBS should provide.”
Let’s take a look at the materials that the show’s producer submitted when they applied their federal funding:
The grant specifies the programs “should be designed to appeal to all of America’s children by providing them with content and characters with which they can identify.” In addition, the grant says, “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.”
Sounds to me like the producers provided exactly the kind of program the funders were looking for when they approved the grant.
Spellings told the Washington Times that she wants all of the $100-million grant back from PBS. Hear that David Geffen (and Ellen DeGeneres and Oprah)? I’d encourage a few wealthy members of the ‘left cultural elite’ decried by idiots like Spelling to offer PBS replacement funding for the grant on condition that they agree to distribute the offending Sugartime episode in question.
Let PBS and your local stations know that you’d like them to broadcast the censored episode ASAP and that you object to their craven capitulation to naked political interference in programming decisions. While you’re at it, let WGBH know that you support their series.
UPDATE: one of the two local PBS affiliates here in Seattle just sent me a statement about their plans to air the program. I’ll share a small portion of the message:
KCTS Television has decided it will broadcast the “Sugartime” episode of the PBS series Postcards from Buster on Friday, February 11 at 4:30pm. Our sister station KYVE in Yakima will also air the episode at that time.
The decision to air the program was rooted in our belief that KCTS and KYVE serve diverse communities which are comprised of many different kinds of families, and that it is healthy for children to learn about that diversity in appropriate ways.
We encourage our viewers to watch the program, and then to tell us what they think about it.
Good for you, KCTS! Might all PBS affiliates respond in this way to government censorship and bullying.
UPDATE: Barney Frank has written a scathing letter to Spellings denouncing her homophobia (though he doesn’t use that word) and her message that homosexuals should be persona non grata on America’s public network. The Washington Post article which discusses the Frank letter also recounts the dithering among PBS executives that led to the abominable decision to abandon the show.