Tear Jerker / Arthur

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You wouldn't be happy if you were lost too, would you?
"He's a sad sad bunny, a sad sad bunny, TV isn't funny when you're a sad sad bunny."
Art Garfunkel, "The Ballad of Buster Baxter"

Who knew a PBS cartoon could have some really sad moments?

  • The 2014 death of Walter Massey (who voiced Mr. Haney for the entirety of the show's run). The recent episode "Brain Sees Stars" was the last one he did voice work for, and it ends with a dedication to him.
  • In the episode "Lost!", Arthur goes on a bus for a swimming lesson, but sleeps through it and misses his stop. Depressed how he is broke and doesn't know the way back home, he lets out a tear. Also heartbreaking for older viewers as his parents and sister are understandably terrified when he doesn't show up for class. Any wonder his mother burst into tears just recounting it?
    • In the Cold Open, there are a few moments when D.W. announces that Arthur is lost and Dave and Jane decide to take charge.
    • D.W. also suggests that maybe Arthur ran away and isn't lost.
    • Jane tells D.W. to stay right where she is instead of going to tell everyone and getting help because "I don't need two lost children". D.W., who feels helpless after she's left alone with Pal, cries out, "Arthur, where are you?"
    • The title card shows Pal sniffing, looking for someone (ostensibly Arthur) and howling before resuming the search.
    • When Arthur returns, D.W. asks, "All this time you were at the bus station? We were worried for nothing?"
    • To take it even further: This is one of the few times D.W. is not being selfish or rude to either her brother or her parents. Not only does she comfort her mom after the latter cries over the story, telling her that Arthur is safe now, but at the end, she walks into Arthur's room while he's trying to sleep because she "wanted to make sure he was still there".
  • In "The Cherry Tree", Muffy wants a huge bouncy house for her birthday. But in order to get it, her favorite childhood tree has to be chopped down. Her despair at this and regret at ever wishing for the bouncy house is quite moving.
  • In "Arthur's Cousin Catastrophe," Arthur's reaction on hearing that Cousin Mo came to the event, followed instantly by three years' worth of flashbacks, from using him as a sprinkler ornament to practicing karate moves on him. Mo,who has matured a lot since those times, has a surprised, sad look every time Arthur runs away from her because he's her favorite relative and the only reason she comes to the reunions. She doesn't exactly apologize for her past behavior either; Arthur jokes at the end that he's glad she decided to show off her piano skills this time as they laugh. DW doesn't help matters with her No Sympathy jokes about what Mo will do to Arthur.
  • "Poor Muffy" is an episode that tests Muffy and Francine's friendship. After Muffy's house needs to be cleaned of carpeting that triggers her allergies, Francine offers to let Muffy stay at her place, a three-room apartment with four people living there. Muffy immediately proves herself to be a terrible house-guest: she forces Francine to rearrange the things she brought like two TVs and a statue, calls dinner leftovers "vomitrocious" to Mrs. Frensky's face, complains about the lack of cable available, shorts out the electricity while attempting to do a spa treatment, is Innocently Insensitive when driving to school in a limo while Francine offers to walk with her and forgets her lunch, and plays exercise music so loud that the neighbors call. The only decent thing she does is offer Catherine her place, since Catherine isn't allergic, and gets to enjoy the Fiction 500 luxuries that Muffy has to miss. Then when Francine sarcastically suggests that if Muffy is so unhappy that she can leave, Muffy packs and calls on her cellphone while still in the apartment to announce she's leaving and expects the Frenskys to beg her to stay. Mr. Frensky through all this has been a good sport, answering Muffy's Innocently Insensitive questions about why he doesn't earn more money, and he jokes about wanting to play football with Muffy. Francine hits her Rage Breaking Point and tells Muffy that she's being "rude and selfish" and is not allowed back. Fortunately this triggers a Jerkass Realization in Muffy, who walks with Francine the next day to school and apologizes. In "Arthur and the True Francine" Muffy has gained Character Development to sleep over at Francine's place and not complain.
  • "Arthur and the True Francine": in the episode, Muffy and Francine become friends immediately in the second grade because they have the same middle name. Muffy even gives Francine a friendship bracelet. Come Thursday's math test, Muffy copies Francine's exam and then claims that she would "never cheat in a million years". Francine, in shock, is unable to defend herself and ends up in detention for a week. Small wonder that she asks Muffy "Is that why you pretended to like me?" in a tearful voice, returns the bracelet, and tosses away the apology gifts that Muffy sends her. Muffy eventually comes clean to Mr. Marco so that Francine can play in the big baseball game, but she blushes when Francine reminds her of it at a slumber party one year later, since Muffy became a Drama Queen on being asked if she ever told a lie.
  • When Mr. Ratburn's sister plans to substitute for him, the class has a Mass "Oh, Crap!" on hearing the news from Mr. Haney and Francine imagines that the siblings were like Cain and Abel, always competing from when they were toddlers. The final college Imagine Spot between the two Ratburns has them sabotaging each other during senior projects and each vowing to be the toughest teacher in the universe. Note that Francine, who has a good relationship with her sister, comes up with this. What's worse is that we don't know what Mr. Ratburn's relationship with his sister is like; we only know that she is a Kindergarten Teacher that accidentally makes the class suffer because she bores them with work that's too easy like identifying animals on flashcards.
    • Also from that episode Mr. Ratburn suffers from laryngitis; the class doesn't notice because he's having them doing hard work, but Mr. Haney does. Doubling as a Crowning Moment of Funny, the class cheers out of Mr. Haney's eyesight when they hear that Mr. Ratburn is ill and can't teach for a while. For a good reason on hearing the cheers Mr. Haney checks in on the class with a Death Glare, invoking Dude, Not Funny!.
  • It's a good thing that Binky stopped bullying before the watershed, because the tragic results of bullying in the news make his early days much harder to bear.
    • In a Sympathy for the Devil moment, Arthur and Francine listen to him in "Bully for Binky" about why he doesn't want to fight Sue Ellen: she's the first person who's ever accepted his fighting challenge since anyone else who did has run away from him. He bullies others since he feels it's the only thing he's good at, which Arthur admits, and when he hopes to beat Sue Ellen in an improv jazz match, she kicks his butt and makes him quit. It takes a while for Arthur to convince him to knock it off with the competing and the fighting, which marks Binky's Character Development into a friend.
    • During "Finders Keypers" Arthur, Binky and Brain nearly throw away their friendship over a key that turns out to be working the baseball field sprinklers. They were giving each other the stuff they lent and arguing which days they would get to drive the hypothetical "car". It becomes a Brick Joke when Buster finds the same key in "The Ballad of Buster Baxter" and Arthur, remembering We Are Not Going Through That Again, tells Buster that it belongs to Mr. Morris.
    • Anytime Binky regresses to that bully state is also heartbreaking, like in "April 9th" when he claims that only he can steal snacks from George.
    • It's kinda ironic that he was a bully seeing as the activities and interests he developed after calming down a bit and the implications that interest in such things create are the kinds of things that are a hot button for the cruelest kinds of bullying.
  • Arthur's disappointment in "Arthur's Baby" when it seems that Kate cries every time he gets "near her," and thus must hate him. It gets to the point where he gets nervous when his mom asks him to watch Kate for a few minutes.
  • Any time D.W. evokes Adult Fear, being four or five depending on the episode and somewhat of a Bratty Half-Pint.
    • D.W. running away in "D.W.'s Baby" to go live on an island with monkeys. Much to her parents' relief, she comes home after going to Grandma Thora to ask for a ride to Button Island, and Thora convinces her that Kate needs a sister when she gets older, so D.W. should stay. One kicker is that Nadine doesn't go with her; she just says, "Bye, D.W." and vanishes.
    • When she gets lost while her mother is speaking to Mr. Crosswire at a large superstore, and has one Imagine Spot after another about how her parents will react (either with tears or happiness that the house is quieter) and how she and Nadine will survive in the store.
    • D.W.'s attempt at the balance beam is quite unnerving. After the Tibble Twins get her on the beam, she wobbles precariously while trying to do a cartwheel. Just as she's about to fall, Emily gets her mother and the gymnast instructor; Mrs. Read catches D.W. in the nick of time.
    • Her bad idea of climbing up a REALLY tall tree also causes a Mass "Oh, Crap!" when the crowd below sees her. Fortunately the fire department is nearby and gets her out.
    • D.W. getting lost in the White House. Another fortunate thing: Secret Service crawls all over the White House, and the President finds her while inviting the family to dinner.
  • Also any time Mr. and Mrs. Read chew out D.W. when she needs a chewing out. They are harder on Arthur since he knows better when he messes up. At times they lecture D.W. too when she needs it.
    • Mr. Read lecturing D.W. offscreen for putting his shoes in the dishwasher and blaming it on Kate. She also put bologna in the CD player, which Nadine warned her not to do.
    • Mrs. Read saying Go to Your Room when D.W. threatens to pinch Kate for stealing her dolls. Mr. Read then telling her to stay in her room after she comes out in the middle of an Imagine Spot.
    • Mrs. Read telling D.W. "No more restaurants for you, young lady," after D.W. causes a tantrum on receiving a spinach salad and spills it all over a waiter. It's even worse in the book version of "D.W. the Picky Eater," where the parents make good on that promise and D.W. has to stay with a strict babysitter who only lets her eat raw carrot sticks.
  • Francine's Heroic B.S.O.D. and 10-Minute Retirement where she learns that Catherine is a better rider than she is during horseback lessons, when Catherine had to attend to babysit her and was grumbling about it. Their instructor Stanley bluntly tells Catherine that while she can receive free lessons since she's such a help, Francine is "good for a beginner, but not up to your level," unaware that Francine had heard. Catherine after that only has does attempt at You Are Better Than You Think You Are but doesn't deny that Stanley told the truth, especially when he says that Francine will only get better if she gets back on a horse.
  • Arthur's struggles with revision in "Arthur Writes A Story." Many writers can relate, since his main goal is to write a story that the class will like but which ends up pleasing no one; DW delivers Brutal Honesty in saying how he wrote about getting Pal was boring but her suggestion of changing Pal to an elephant doesn't help. Buster finds the second draft "eh", Brain points out the factual errors in the third draft, Francine criticizes the fourth draft for being too factual and "complicated," the Tough Customers want a love story in the sixth or seventh draft, and Grandma Thora finds the eighth draft "a little confusing" while telling Arthur to not worry too much about pleasing everyone. Mr. Ratburn finally gets through to Arthur by wanting to hear the actual story after hearing the tenth draft in country music form with Bionic Bunny included, and telling him he wants a copy of the story that Arthur tells that is riveted with suspense and love.
  • The fact that Buster is a failing student, which is either Played for Drama or is a Running Gag depending on the episode.
    • "Arthur and the True Francine" shows Buster puts in little to no effort to studying, and goes Oh Crap! on seeing the math test after trying to add "two plus two". Fern even lampshades that he can't accuse Francine of cheating off him because she gets much better grades than he does.
    • "Prunella's Prediction" has all of the people at Prunella's party laughing when Buster asks if he'll get an A on the next geography test to test out the cootie-catcher. Arthur even says, "You never get As, Buster." Buster's shock when he does ace the test only hammers it home.
    • "Buster Makes the Grade" had this scenario Played for Drama.
      • After a humorous Cold Opening, Buster has to visit the principal's office, where his mother is crying because he might have to repeat third grade. Truth in Television, this is a serious issue.
      • Arthur's Imagine Spot of Buster repeating third grade 33 times and an old Mr. Ratburn quizzing a grown Buster on this fact, asking how old Buster is. Whether the viewer tries to solve the problem through multiplication or addition, the implications are horrifying.
      • Buster not even trying to study at first, which Arthur and Francine mention, accepting that he is "dumb" and "hopeless". He blows off all his friends' attempts to tutor him by making excuses, falling asleep while reading Alice in Wonderland, eating up the peanut fudge used for long division, and cheating in various ways. Binky in the novelization lampshades that if Buster wants to do well he has to put in the effort.
      • By the end of the episode, the night before the test, everyone has given up on Buster, who laments that his only hope is to learn everything in one night. Binky says, "Third grade is easier the second time around, or the third," Arthur says they'll always be friend even if Buster gets bullied for staying back, and Francine mentions the second-graders who will become third-graders have a great softball team.
      • The Imagine Spot that motivates Buster to cram: of having to see Principal Arthur, and learning he'll be sent back further to preschool so he can "nap and play all day," and that Arthur considers this good news.
    • In "Buster Hits the Books," Buster admitting that he's never read a book, and has been getting by with television and movie adaptations. Arthur and Francine fail to find a book that he can finish in time to do a makeup book report, and Arthur asks, "How can my best friend in the world not like reading?!" The episode even implies that he might have a learning disability, if not for his nearly finishing Robin Hood in one night and writing a report on it.
  • "Arthur's Faraway Friend", when Buster goes away. Some prominent moments include:
    • The whole class is in Stunned Silence when Arthur comes in cheerfully, not knowing the bad news Buster has delivered: that he's going to travel with his dad.
    • Arthur desperately convincing Buster to dig a pit with him under Arthur's house so he can hide there. Buster bluntly says he'd think time with his dad would be more fun than living in a pit.
    • Arthur's Imagine Spot that follows the moment, of him as Robin Hood and Buster as Friar Tuck, and Tuck lets him fall into a bog because "I've got to go."
    • Arthur crying after Buster leaves for the airport, and then realizing he never finished the Robin Hood book with Buster.
    • However, "Buster's Back" brings Tears of Joy when he come's back to the show.
    • Although "The Ballad of Buster Baxter" show some realistic elements of moving back to your old home with everything suddenly changes without you in it. Nothing Is the Same Anymore indeed.
  • THE GREAT MCGRADY: With Mrs. McGrady getting cancer, it's already sad enough, but the reactions from the kids are worse because of how realistic they are: Arthur and D.W. try their best to help Mrs. McGrady out, to the point that they become a bit of a burden, Francine is unable to face Mrs. McGrady, feeling afraid for her, Muffy acts like nothing has changed, etc., etc.
    • In a meta-example, the fact that such a noble attempt at addressing the subject on a children-oriented series has been tainted (and caused the episode to be banned from re-airing at least in the U.S.) by the revelations that guest star Lance Armstrong cheated by using drugs on his Tour de France wins (which are lauded in the episode).
  • Arthur punching D.W. is a tad sad.
  • April 9th.
    • The "Funny Aneurysm" Moment when in an earlier episode Arthur and Buster tried to convince Binky the school had burned down, and then tried to claim "It only burned on the inside." Arthur even chides Buster for that last line, since it doesn't work. Come this episode, Arthur and Buster's words come true.
    • Buster can't feel bad for the school burning down in flames because he slept through the whole thing.
    • The janitor Mr. Morris suffers a broken leg from the fire, and eventually he has to leave the school so that his daughter can take care of him. Buster, who's been bonding with Mr. Morris, at first offers to take care of him and is heartbroken when Mr. Morris gives him an accordion as a gift.
    • Sue Ellen's favorite diary is left in the Elwood City School building, and the firefighters douse it so that it's beyond repair.
      • Muffy, for once, isn't a Jerkass and tries numerous times to cheer her up by buying her various new diaries. Until the end, it doesn't really work.
    • Arthur's dad, who was catering a breakfast at Arthur's school, had gotten caught in the fire at one point. He was okay, but Arthur spends some time feeling terrified that something bad will happen to him again.
      • Arthur's nightmare of his dad nearly drowning at an aquarium while serving pirates, with Arthur failing to save him.
      • Arthur blurts out, "But what if something happens about the aquarium?" while trying to fake a sore throat to keep his dad from going to another catering event. His dad immediately asks, "Are you worried something is going to happen to me?" with understanding instead of anger.
      • His dad then proceeds to tell a story of how Grandma Thora was in a car accident when Dave was a child, and for a long time after he was scared she would drive out one day and wouldn't come back. Dave would toss paper into his wastebasket, as a ritual to ensure she would come home safely (it helps that he was a good shot); one day he didn't, and she came home.
      • "It's my job to worry about you, Arthur. Not the other way around."
      • This is even more of a Tear Jerker if you go off the assumption that the episode is a stand-in for September 11, and what happened to Arthur's dad is a sanitized version of people getting injured or even dying on 9/11.
      • Considering it came out about a year after that, it's safe to say it is.
    • Binky, who has a fear of fire, pulls the school fire alarm in fear. He gets better after talking about it with Mr. Frensky and riding with him during his rounds.
    • Buster's role in the story may not be much in terms of tearjearker but in real life you have to understand that it can be very difficult to console victim or even emphathize with their situation because you were outside of their experience. You wouldn't have the best understanding of their scenario which can become difficult if you don't know how to emphasise with them and how to help them cope. It'll also be difficult to talk about the same horrible experience if you didn't understand how they really reacted, as shown in the episode by Buster dramatising the experience so that he'd feel like a part of it but Arthur understandably scolds him for sounding more like a thrill seeker rather than understanding how terrified Arthur was for potentially losing his father.
  • George was teased because he is dyslexic.
    • One of the worst moments of this is in "The Last Tough Customer" when Molly brushes George by telling him to go read a book and then sneering "Oh; that's right. You can't read." Unlike previous run-ins with the Tough Customers, George is hurt rather than scared, his voice getting very small as he stutters "I can read..." and runs off, crying. Binky is appalled at Molly's actions.
    Binky: That was a little harsh.
  • In "D.W.'s Time Trouble", D.W. is so angry Arthur took her to a movie she didn't want to see that she and her imaginary friend Nadine go back in time to when Arthur was born and change things around so that she's the older sibling. However, D.W. and Nadine start seeing their teenaged selves. Turns out the whole thing was a bad dream D.W. had. So she sleeps in Arthur's bed for the night. The ending scene is both a Tear Jerker and a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming.
  • In "Revenge of the Chip", D.W. is mad at her mom because she told her friends about D.W.'s chip incident from the previous episode. Mom made a promise with her, but she broke it and told an adult about it. Even more sad, D.W. runs away.
  • The episode "So Long, Spanky" can be a real downer for anyone who has lost a pet and has to cope with that loss.
  • "Grandpa Dave's Memory Album", in which Grandpa Dave gets Alzheimer's disease. That pretty much explains it all.
  • D.W. is a jerk, but many viewers can relate to her feelings in "D.W.'s Perfect Wish".
  • In "Mom and Dad Have a Great Big Fight", well, Mom and Dad have a great big fight. Arthur and D.W. fear it will end in a divorce. Even their imaginations of what will happen to their parents (e.g. they never speak to each other again, Arthur and D.W. will have to take care of each other in their own house) are pretty sad and scary for children their age.
  • In "Prunella's Prediction", a villain named Mr. Melt is wrecking havoc at a ice skating party and gets defeated. Wanna know his motivation? He desperately wanted to be invited to the party and was extremely depressed at not being invited. He is truly a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds. Poor Mr. Melt :(
    Arthur: But I SAVED YOU!
  • The Woogle episode. Poor old Arthur being humiliated for not having a Furb- um, Woogle. Especially the dream sequence.
  • "The Half-Baked Sale", when Grandma Thora finds out that Arthur and D.W. hid her awful cookies because they were afraid she would get insulted by someone else.
    Thora: Sarah McGrady, am I a bad cook? (Sad music plays)
  • Seeing Carl have a panic attack in the Asperger's episode was really sad.
  • "The Last Tough Costumer" reveals why Molly is such a bully, and it also has her write letters to all her friends, saying that she doesn't want to be respected, she wants to be liked.
    • Made worse by the event that makes her realize what she's become: her little brother James, previously established as a kind and sweet kid who Molly absolutely adores, shoves a little girl out of the way in line for the water fountain in the park to Molly's obvious horror and shock. Molly tries to tell the girl that James didn't mean it but trails off when she sees the little girl in the exact same position she had been in after being bullied when she was younger. And when she asks why James did it, he tells her:
  • "So Funny I Forgot To Laugh" has Sue Ellen reacting to a picture Arthur sent...of her with the head of a sheepdog. After the initial shock, it makes Sue Ellen cry. It's very painful to see the usually cheerful and carefree Sue Ellen actually hurt.
    • Throughout the episode, Arthur had been continually laughing at her sweater. At first Sue Ellen just brushes it off but as the episode progresses Arthur just continues to be a Jerkass until it reaches a point where Sue Ellen almost switches classes, she's so hurt and angry.
  • In the episode "Buster's New Friend", after Arthur tells Buster off for spending too much time with Mike when he should have been working on their science project, Mr. Ratburn asks Buster to give a progress report on what he's done so far. His eventual response is "I don't really know what I'm doing..." Sort of Played for Laughs, but it's pretty sad regardless.
  • In "The Good Sport," Francine loses Athlete of the Year to, surprisingly, Jenna. Despite becoming a passive-aggressive Jerkass over the course of the episode, it's kinda hard to not feel sorry for Francine when she completely breaks down in tears, considering how hard she's pushed herself to be good at everything.
    • Same goes for Jenna, who is constantly put under stress by both Francine and especially Muffy by constantly reminding her that everybody believed Francine was the more deserving winner. The harassment becomes so much that Jenna breaks down into tears, angrily pleading them to just leave her alone. Anyone who has felt their accomplishments cramped by someone who insists on being a Sore Loser about it can relate to how much it hurts her that she cannot enjoy what she worked so hard for to the point where she almost regrets it.
  • When D.W. offers to take out the trash in The Last Day, the bag is caught on a hose, rips open and spills trash everywhere. D.W. starts to cry and unlike most prior episodes, she's not throwing a tantrum, she says she doesn't think she can handle kindergarten indicating she's stressed about going to real school.
    • On the same episode. Ratburn's speech reflecting on the school year would be this for many in the audience who have grown up watching the show and are now adults.
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