Tongues wagged when PBS President Pat Mitchell announced she would resign her high perch at the end of her contract in June 2006. The buzz was that she had been ruined by the cartoon character Buster the Bunny -- or more specifically, the episode of the PBS kids show "Travels with Buster" featuring two Vermont lesbian moms making maple sugar. "I've got a long time to get past Buster," she told USA Today.
Faced with embarrassment when new Education Secretary Margaret Spellings wrote a letter making the reasonable point that many parents would find this episode of political correctness inappropriate for their preschool kids, Mitchell said that PBS would not distribute that show on the PBS national feed. Predictably, the makers of the show at PBS mega-station WGBH in Boston declared they would have no qualms with insulting the taxpayers who fund their work and declared they would distribute the episode themselves. Rebellious PBS stations in more than half the country have taught toddlers about maple sugar as well as the need to accept the lifestyle of "Mom and Gillian."
Any time cartoons favored by young children enter the culture wars, there is an automatic assumption that someone is suffering from "parent-noia" -- followed by guffaws that some cartoon is ruining the moral fiber of our youth and turning them all over to Satan. Comedians joke and giggle. (Yes, those are the same live-and-let-live types who go into outrage mode at the idea that cartoons in commercials brainwash our impressionable youth to eat Twinkies instead of celery sticks.)
If we took a poll, most parents would unite around this opinion: Let young children have innocent cartoon entertainment without everyone ruining it with adult political agendas. We can understand that PBS's lesbian moms didn't kiss on screen or explicitly tout gay marriage. We know it wasn't anything like "Tongues Untied," the wild gay documentary many PBS stations aired in 1991, complete with very explicit sex talk and F-words. But PBS stations promise in nearly every pledge drive and every appearance before Congress that their daytime programming is a safe haven for parents to use with their preschool children. That's not the case when some PBS activists are actively trying to indoctrinate 4-year-olds.
The PBS political-correctness brigades at least feel they are idealistic. In this sweeps month of February, all the other networks are pumping up the lesbian themes for much more cynical ratings-grabbing reasons, with hormone-bursting teens as one target audience.