The beloved animated show Clifford the Big Red Dog in recent weeks became the second PBS Kids series with a recurring LGBT character when one of Emily Elizabeth’s friends brought her two moms to a dinner party.
The series, based on a popular Scholastic book character, follows the exploits of an energetic girl named Emily Elizabeth and her giant red dog, Clifford, who is the size of a house.
It was rebooted by PBS and Amazon Prime last year with new animation and new voices. It is within this reboot that two lesbian characters were introduced – although it may not be obvious to many children.
In the episode in question, “The Big Red Tomato/Dogbot,” Emily Elizabeth holds an outdoor dinner party for her friend Samantha. When the dinner is set to begin, Samantha walks up with her two moms.
“Won’t you please join us?” Emily Elizabeth asks.
“It would be our pleasure,” one of the women replies. “Oooh, something smells delicious!”
Samantha and her moms then prepare to sit down and eat dinner with Emily Elizabeth and her mom as Clifford watches.
The two moms are not identified within the episode, but the credits call them “Dr. Mulberry” and “Ms. Mulberry.” In other episodes, Samantha calls each of the women “Mom.” In the episode titled “The Birdwell Island Blues/The Big Red World,” she calls Dr. Mulberry “Mom,” and in “Making Lemonade Out of Lemons/The Watering Hole,” she calls Ms. Mulberry “Mom.”
Clifford the Big Red Dog is the second PBS Kids series with an LGBT character. Last year, the series Arthur broke new ground when the primary character’s male school teacher, Mr. Ratburn, married a man. It was the first gay wedding in PBS Kids history.
Recently, Sesame Street recorded an episode with gay actor Billy Porter wearing a dress.
Monica Cole, director of One Million Moms, said in an email to supporters this week PBS is “taking advantage of parental trust.”
“Discussion of such controversial topics and lifestyle choices should be left up to parents,” she wrote. “PBS KIDS should not introduce the LGBTQ lifestyle to young children. PBS KIDS should stick to entertaining and providing family-friendly programming, instead of pushing an agenda.”
One Million Moms launched a petition to PBS Kids that has garnered more than 16,000 signatures.
Last year, PBS defended its inclusion of LGBT characters in children’s programs.
“PBS Kids programs are designed to reflect the diversity of communities across the nation,” Maria Vera Whelan, the senior director of marketing, communications and social media for children’s media and education at PBS, said in a press release. “We believe it is important to represent the wide array of adults in the lives of children who look to PBS Kids every day.”
Photo courtesy: ©PBS
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.