Stance: Studies on the Family

Brigham Young University Student Journal

Tag: Arthur

Everybody That You Meet Has an Original Point of View: More Parenting in “Arthur”

I had so much fun analyzing parenting styles in “Arthur” last week that I decided to do another cartoon animal related post. Although the Crosswires and the Barneses are a little bit more dysfunctional than the Reads, the Baxters, and the Frenskys, they still pass parenting muster.

The Crosswire family:

The Crosswires are Elwood City’s equivalent of the Rockefellers and they very much fit into the rich parent stereotype. You know the one—whenever their daughter needs quality time, the parents buy her a new toy and leave her with the butler. Mr. Crosswire gets very little screen time and Mrs. Crosswire gets even less. As such, Muffy is quite spoiled and frequently relies on whining and wheedling to get her way, rather than actually thinking about the problem she needs to solve.

However, things aren’t all bad in the Crosswire household. True, Muffy’s mother is rarely seen and when she is she never says anything. She gets a line in the head lice episode where she reminisces on her own experience with lice, but it’s the nanny (who only appears once or twice) who’s actually washing Muffy’s hair. But Bailey, Muffy’s butler/mentor, is a wise character who helps acquaint her with opera and get a book club started. And Mr. Crosswire himself isn’t all that bad. He takes Muffy to the opera and to art exhibits. He also takes over coaching the soccer team when none of the other parents will step up. Mr. Crosswire enables Muffy’s spoiled lifestyle, but he genuinely seems to care about his daughter and just wants what’s best for her.

Picture from here.

Picture from here.

The Barnes family:

Binky is first introduced to the audience as a bully in a gang called the Tough Customers, and his parents are apparently unaware of his bullying tendencies. However, as the series goes on, Binky sheds the stereotype more and more as it’s revealed that he likes ballet and catching butterflies, both hobbies that his parents fully support.

Picture from here.

Picture from here.

Binky, like Buster, seems to be a victim of helicopter parenting—there’s an episode where he finds out that he has a peanut allergy and his mom kicks into High Mom Mode, trying to protect him. As a result, Binky sometimes acts out to assert his own independence. At the end of the aforementioned episode, though, because he tells his mom how he feels, she agrees to be a little less involved and he agrees to check in with her a little more often. The fact that they communicate and continually reassess their standing is the signal of a healthier relationship to come.

Both the Crosswires and the Barnses want what’s best for their kids, but that’s not enough—they have to communicate with them. The best parents tell their kids their reasoning for rules that seem arbitrary, but they also listen to feedback and adjust accordingly.

You don’t have to be perfect to be a good parent. Just listen to your heart*.

*listen to the beat, listen to the rhythm, the rhythm of the street…

—Becca Barrus, Stance

A Wonderful Kind of Day: Diverse Parenting in “Arthur”

Do you ever find yourself over-analyzing your favorite shows from childhood? If so, then this post is for you. Today I’ll be looking at the different parenting styles of three of the families in the popular PBS kids’ show “Arthur.”

Picture from here.

Picture from here.

Arthur’s Parents:
As David and Jane Read are the parents of the titular character, they get the most screen time. The Reads don’t have time for archaic gender roles—David is a caterer and Jane is an accountant. Both of them share household tasks and can be seen in different scenes doing dishes together and trading off cooking meals. It doesn’t just fall to Jane to sort out all the problems with the kids; David is just as involved in Arthur and DW’s lives as Jane is. The Reads tuck their children into bed at night and take them on trips every year. They are involved in their kids’ lives without being helicopter parents.

Buster’s Parents:
Buster is the only main character to live in a single-parent household*.There’s even a whole episode devoted to Arthur trying to fix Buster up with an assortment of dads for the Father’s Day Picnic. (I do a write-up of this episode here for anyone interested.) Despite this perceived disadvantage, Buster is as well-adjusted as any of his friends. He and his mom have a close relationship and do everything together. There are some especially interesting episodes when Bitzi (his mom) starts dating and Buster has to come to terms with it. Bitzi talks to him through the whole process and makes sure that he is okay with the way things are developing. At times Buster’s mom comes off as anxious and hovery (especially in “Arthur’s Perfect Christmas”), but Buster realizes that she feels like she has to do everything perfectly since she’s raising him alone. They clearly love each other and are patient with each other in their circumstances.

Francine’s Parents:
You don’t see as much of the Frenskys as you do the Reads or the Baxters, but Francine’s home life is still worth considering. If Francine has a problem, she usually figures it out herself or talks it over with Muffy or Catherine (her older sister). On the rare occasions where she does turn to her parents for help, though, it’s usually her dad she talks to. Francine isn’t as well off as her friends (a sore spot between her and Muffy), but her dad makes sure that she knows that money isn’t as important as family. “What would I do with more money?” he asks. “Could I buy a better family?” Mr. Frenksy’s light-hearted attitude toward his children is one that more people should strive to have.

In sum, this broad sweep of parenting styles and tactics shows that A) there’s no one right way to raise children and B) there are plenty of things to learn from a world where aardvarks, rabbits, and monkeys can be friends.


*I’m counting Prunella and Fern as secondary characters and don’t tell me that Fern’s had a dad this whole time, PBS, the man’s been missing for fifteen seasons you can’t just sneak him into an episode, pretending he was there the whole time, and think I won’t notice.

—Becca Barrus, Stance