R’s Childhood: Arthur the Aardvark

From what I remember, my early life as a 7-8 year old kid consisted of school, snacks and television series; the last one consuming mostly 60% of my life. I was perfectly satisfied with my routine especially my television “schedule” and I was rather glad my brothers didn’t care much for the T.V and I didn’t have anybody to wrestle the remote with. Well, except my dad. One thing I’m thankful for is my parents gave me absolute freedom on the T.V and I explored all channels with gusto and tried to keep in mind what shows I liked, what time of the day they were showing, did it interfere with any other activity (i.e school), etc.

If you grew up in Manila with a cable T.V during the mid 90s, you’ve probably encountered a certain channel where they showcased animated shows that weren’t under Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon or aren’t anime for that matter. The Raccoons, Rupert, The Adventures of Tin Tin, and Night Hood for example (titles ring a bell?). I forgot the name of that channel and if you know, please let me know and I’ll forever be grateful. It’s the same channel that aired the Wild C.A.T.s and one of my favorite animated TV series ever, Arthur.

And said HEY! What a wonderful kind of day.
Where you learn to work and play,
And get along with each other.

… As the catchy of the opening theme of the show goes and we are greeted with this image of anthropomorphic rabbits, dogs, bears, moose as children with kid at its center (I didn’t know what animal Arthur was at that time and it puzzled me for quite some time) wearing a yellow sweater.

I have fond memories about the show Arthur. It is after all the show that taught me to give oatmeal baths/wash to people with chicken pox when Arthur contracted them and a many years later, I was faced with the question in Nursing school “What kind of bath do you give to patients with chicken pox to relieve symptoms?”. Then I remembered that episode. Got the question right, no kidding!

The star of the show is Arthur Read, a normal American school kid—who happens to be an anthropomorphic aardvark with dogs, rabbits, and monkeys as friends—guides us into his adventures at home and school to illustrate the daily experiences of an average grade-schooler. Looking back, I remembered wanting to have a friend in real life like Arthur. One of his characteristics I liked was that he had a brainy sweetness that made him engaging, not annoying or made his interactions with his friends too forcefully perky. Everything felt easy, comfortable yet fun and that was a wonderful balance of the show.

Each episode of Arthur runs for approximately for half an hour, with each episode containing 2 self-contained 12 minute stories. What I love about the series then until now is the striking animation, gentle yet bright colors and water color backgrounds that perfectly capture the spirit of kids in the series as well as the viewers. Who could forget Arthur’s yellow sweater and D.W’s soft pink dress?

The series’ regular cast populates the fictional Elwood City in the U.S, and it is a very diverse group. The characters are a mix of rabbits, dogs, cats, monkeys, bears and moose, but their habitats, clothing and problems are decidedly human (Arthur gets his glasses, Buster having a hard time with math, Francine having a bad hair day on school picture day).

As a kid, I enjoyed seeing the endearing Arthur along with his group of friends and feisty little sister D.W turn their everyday occurrences into imaginative journeys with valuable life lessons. When I remember all the poignant adventures they had per episode, I guess what endeared me to the show and what I think others who grew up with Arthur will say, is that it really touches real emotional situations kids encounter in their daily lives (which I think most early-childhood educational shows lack); it wasn’t gender-based and nothing was too over-the-top but still the message or lesson came across clearly.

Another thing that I loved about Arthur was it reinforced family dynamics especially when it came to the reality of personal issues that affects us kids. The parents in Arthur were present and participated and I remember liking Arthur’s family immensely because they reminded me of the relationship I had with my mom. The kind of dialogue the Arthur and D.W had reflected how I talked with my mom on most days, especially when it came to resolving sibling conflict and when I made stupid mistakes.

One of the episodes I couldn’t forget was when Arthur used his mom’s PC unsupervised. I mean, there are a few children who aren’t fascinated by their parents’ PC. Arthur had a chance to try out a new computer game borrowed from a friend and he couldn’t resist the temptation to try it out in his mom’s PC, despite her saying not to use it unsupervised. When the screen goes berserk, Arthur fears he has broken the computer right in the middle of an important job that his mom needs it for. That anxiety Arthur felt, I remember, definitely paralleled the spiraling emotions I had whenever I felt guilty and panicky about doing something I shouldn’t have done when I was a kid. I remember seeing Arthur being earnest and facing it head on made me feel bad for him because he was going to get it. But then at the end of the episode and well… almost all, episodes I remember that people will act foolishly or selfishly, but they are given a chance to redeem themselves with self-awareness and humor.

Another episode I loved was when Arthur and Francine were reluctantly paired up for a class project because of an argument they were having. Both decided to work in the library separately until they were locked in after become unaware of the closing time. They found themselves still concerned for each other, their friendship outweighing their argument and they decided to disregard their squabble to work to together to get out of the library. That was an adventure I’d never forget with valuable problem solving skills and I have to say it added to my fascination of libraries and little adventures.

I could enumerate a lot of memorable episodes which more or less taught me something: the basics of bicycle safety when D.W was learning to ride one (sadly I didn’t learn how to ride a bike), getting library cards, what Kwanzaa is (I thought everyone celebrated Christmas alone), Arthur helping Buster study for Math using his favorite food to make it easier, Arthur’s conflicted feelings about having another sibling and then realizing the joys of family and sibling-hood (I remember my feelings for my youngest brother when he came to the family). How can I quibble with this show’s gentle pleasures?

If I was that same kid right now year ago who religiously watched Arthur and had the means to express my self clearly, I’d say it was a phenomenon for pop culture and I still believe so.

It’s true that I associate the show with my intense feelings of nostalgia for my childhood, but it’s a clearly undisputed fact that the show Arthur was amazing. I’ve also realized that watching Arthur as a child, it didn’t make me feel ‘alienated’ like it was a grown-up spoon feeding me with all those lessons. A few months ago I was able to rediscover episodes from the first to third seasons and I noticed the way the show treats its target audience of children had a sense of maturity and connected them with the real world.

Personally, I think a lot of kids are missing out on Arthur (it’s still running now) when we talk about how accessible the show is for our cable T.V especially here in our country. I have nothing against Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon or Disney that our cable provides, but I’d love to see some variety and being able to watch show like Arthur at the comfort of our own T.V set.

Cheers to Arthur! I believe my generation would not close its doors to Arthur being a household name, making it accessible for the next generation. For sure, I’ll introduce the series to my children in the near future in whatever means possible. I’m looking forward to the continuity of Arthur and the drive of the creators of this iconic series to provide us and the new generation of children with something that made me as happy as an entertained (inquisitive and motivated) child could ever be.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about Arthur or any of your favorite childhood animated TV series, so feel free to leave comments. Thank you!

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2 Comments

Filed under Childhood

2 responses to “R’s Childhood: Arthur the Aardvark

  1. I watched Arthur quite religiously as a kid, getting home from school before 4PM and making sure I had all my snacks at the ready!

    I loved it then, and it’s safe to say I still love it now. Really liked what you said about it, shows how much the programmes we watch when we’re children can have an affect on our adult life. Same with a lot of books, comics, films, etc.

    • Hello! Thank you for dropping by and taking the time to read this post! 🙂 Arthur is really a timeless show and I always look back to it with fondness because it’s one of those things that really provided a good foundation on how I deal with the world as I grew up.

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