Next month, Arthur will air its four-part series’ finale after a 25-year-long running streak on PBS Kids, which is the longest ever for a children’s animated show. But, while the show might be ending, it’s impact will live on, as Rolling Stone writes, “Arthur has achieved near-immortality on the internet, thanks to the countless memes that have been inspired by the show.”
Arthur became a pop culture phenomenon back in 2016, largely due to Black Twitter, where one user tweeted a meme, “Harambe was just a gorilla,” showcasing Arthur’s Fist, “a screengrab from an exceptionally dark episode in which Arthur punched his sister DW for breaking his model airplane,” (stemming from the public outcry and response to the Cincinnati Zoo’s decision to put down an animal after a three-year old had climbed inside of the enclosure). The still was originally shared by another Twitter user describing the image as “relatable” for displaying “so many emotions in one fist.”
Chrissy Teigen also entered the fray, extending the viral meme, when she used it to troll her husband John Legend, sharing a post on Instagram where her daughter was photographed holding a stuffed Arthur doll, with the caption, “Luna and Daddy.” Legend has embraced his resemblance to the cartoon character with humor and “[h]is Twitter bio ends with the statement, ‘no relation to Arthur,’ and he even poked fun at himself by dressing like Arthur for a Google commercial.”
However, not everyone was happy with the rising tide of Arthur memes. As the memes began to trend, WGBH, the Boston-based network behind Arthur, released a statement around the matter: “[T]he ‘Arthur’ network appreciates that several internet memes ‘have been created and shared in good fun’ but are ‘disappointed by the few that are outside of good taste’…‘Our hope is that Arthur and his friends will be depicted in a way that is respectful and appropriate for all audiences, including young Arthur fans and their families’…‘We certainly are lucky to have a fan base that is so engaged with Arthur, especially those millennials who grew up with him.’”
The much adored series first aired in 1996, and was based on Mark Brown’s book series for children, depicting the story of the talking aardvark Arthur Read, “who lives in Elwood City with his parents and younger sisters D.W. and Kate.” For the majority of the series, Arthur alongside his best friends Francine, Buster, Muffy, Binky, and Brain were third grade students under the strict and watchful eyes of Mr. Ratburn, their teacher. In 2019, Ratburn’s character made headlines when he married another man that season.
According to the New York Times, during “the early 2000s, it was the most popular show for kids ages 2 to 11” and many superstars have appeared on the show, including Joan Rivers, B.J. Novak, John Lewis, Larry King, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, to name a few. Moreover, the show has racked up accolades during its run winning several Daytime Emmy Awards, a BAFTA and Peabody Award.Though fans will soon have to say goodbye to the beloved series, viewers won’t be left wondering what happened to the characters because the last four episodes will show “‘what’s in store for the future’ of the characters as adults.” This also isn’t the penultimate ending for the characters—PBS announced that they “will live on in a series of podcasts, digital shorts and interactive digital content.” Additionally, the PBS Kids streaming service will host the entire series, enabling a new generation to get hooked on the 250+ episodes.