Of all the desecration that 2016 threw at us, one of the weirdest events that has happened was the proliferation of Arthur memes. Now, it's not as though the PBS series was entirely protected from the Internet's tentacles; for just one example, look no further than Buzzfeed (though they also did this one wonderful article about Asperger's Syndrome). Still, it's not hard to find memes like this one while surfing the Web. With this in mind, perhaps we should do the show justice by looking back on some of its best episodes and remind ourselves why we loved the show in the first place.
An early episode of the series, the show was pushing an anti-bullying message from back in the 90s. Though the subplot involving Mr. Haney (the principal) and one of the school's other teachers chasing Mr. Haney's assistant and trying to convince her to take part in their separate events looks bad today, the climatic moment where Francine lets her guard down after all the bullying that Fern started with a cartoon (which was in response to Francine being mean to her), and others continued with their cartoons, is one of the most emotionally striking scenes in the show's canon.
Perhaps the worst that could be said about this video is that it couldn't happen today. Not when we have articles like this being written in the 2010s. It seems so far removed: the idea of Arthur getting lost and stranded in a nether region of Elwood City, relying on his smarts and the kindness of strangers to get back home. Despite this, it's one of the most emotional episodes the show has put out yet.
Admittedly, the attached clip contains both this episode and the previous one, so you have to skip half way through to watch only this one. Still, it's worth it. Watching Buster's transformation from, well, his usual self into someone obsessed with germs is fascinating. Eventually, they all reach a compromise and things are fixed at the end.
I'm lumping the two together because they play on similar themes and came from the same season. Though the different animation may grate on viewers who grew up on the show, the episodes aren't bad because of it. In the first one, we learn how Molly (one of the members of Binky's gang) became such a bully, and she refuses to change her ways until it dawns on her how her behavior spreads onto her younger brother, James. After realizing the consequences of her actions, she makes a concerted effort to change. In the second episode, Sue Ellen gets a new coat which is special to her, until Arthur starts making dog jokes at her to the point where they transition from joking into bullying. Soon, everyone turns on him, and it isn't until she turns in the coat to be donated and Arthur learns about how she plans to change classes because of his bullying that he realizes the severity of what he did. He makes one last, sincere effort to apologize to Sue Ellen for what he did, and in the end, they make amends. They're not only powerful episodes, they serve a good purpose because the statistics regarding bullying in schools are harrowing. If you need to teach your child about bullying, refer to these episodes as good source material.
Granted, this one isn't perfect; the subplot involving D.W. and her friend Bud "preparing" for Kindergarten is annoying, and the other subplot involving Francine and Muffy having different ideas for summer camp is uneven. However, the main plot where Arthur and the gang look forward to 4th Grade after most of them (with the exception of Brain) get entranced by a new teacher who goes by M.C. (voiced by B.J. Novak), only to get second thoughts and fully appreciate having Mr. Ratburn as a teacher, is where the show hits its stride. It makes you look forward to watching the show grow and move forward with its timeline (alas, considering that one of this season's new episodes has D.W. still in preschool, this was not to be). Still, for those of us who grew up with the show, it has a poignancy that's hard to dismiss, even if the song the class sings to Mr. Ratburn can't hold a candle to this timeless classic.
Which episodes resonate with you? Please leave your favorite episodes in the comments section. Until then, let the classic intro take you back in time.