While the episode was indeed real, the TikTok user who reposted the viral video clip said that he posted it as a joke and that he's "not trying to cancel 'Arthur.'"
On June 6, 2021, a video clip from an episode of a children’s TV show resurfaced on TikTok. The moment from the “Arthur” cartoon purportedly showed kids and adults yelling “he’s a knitter” in what appeared to be colonial times. Comments under the video reflected that the kids and adults yelling “knitter” sounded like they were saying a racial epithet.
It’s true that Arthur was repeatedly called a “knitter” in an old episode of the show.
The episode, “Arthur Unravels,” was from the first portion of Season 14, Episode 8. The 2010 episode is available for purchase on YouTube. The animated series first debuted in 1996 and launched its 24th season in 2021.
In the plot, Arthur’s grandmother, Grandma Thora, teaches him about knitting. Later, Arthur realizes he doesn’t want the kids at school to find out that he enjoys knitting.
At recess, Arthur and Buster hide in the bushes so they can knit together and show each other their work.
Buster: The coast is clear. I still don’t know what the big deal is.
Arthur: I just don’t want any of the others seeing us knit, ok?
Buster: But why?
Arthur: Everyone would make fun of us. I think Binky already suspects something.
Binky plays somewhat of a bully who picks on Arthur for having the hobby.
After recess, the children are back in class. Mr. Ratburn is teaching about American history.
Mr. Ratburn: In colonial times, one might have been punished for things we don’t even consider to be crimes today. And being accused of a crime was serious. You could be severely punished, and shunned by the entire community. Just the suspicion of acting strangely could get one arrested. People tried to hide even the most innocent of activities. Arthur?
Arthur: Yes, Mr. Ratburn?
Mr. Ratburn: Just making sure you’re paying attention.
Mr. Ratburn called on Arthur after he was daydreaming about being in colonial times with his knitting materials.
Arthur’s Nightmare: ‘He’s a Knitter!’
Later at home, Arthur has a nightmare that’s set in colonial times.
Arthur: No… no! Let me go!
Mr. Ratburn: You standeth here accused, Arthur Read, of conjuring with string and sticks a most unspeakable garment!
Binky: I saw him with mine own eyes depart Ye Olde Yarn Yurt with a pink woolen thread most shameful!
Arthur: It’s not pink– it’s fuchsia!
Crowd: He’s a knitter! Knitter! Knitter! Knitter!
Arthur: No! No, no, I’m not a knitter! No!
In the scene, a letter “K” was placed on Arthur, which may have been a reference to “The Scarlet Letter.”
It took place with stocks behind the characters, an old form of public punishment.
There was no indication that the use of the word “knitter” was intended to be offensive.
Later in the episode, everything ends up being ok. It’s a children’s TV show, after all. Binky, who bullied Arthur for knitting, is shown knitting with others, joining in on the new hobby.
The episode appeared to simply teach children about the harmless act of knitting and also was about being accepting of the hobbies of others. The video’s description said that the educational objective for Arthur was that he “learns that stereotypes about who does certain hobbies aren’t true and that he should follow his own creative talents.”
Under the TikTok video, which was viewed 300,000 times in its first three days, commenters joked about the word “knitter” sounding close to the N-word.
@nadiryounan said: “If they would’ve said Knitt-A, it would’ve been ok.”
Another commenter, @nessawithab, remarked: “Oh god leave my generation’s cartoon alone we ain’t that sensitive lol.”
@areallygoodjoke said of the third mention of the word “knitter” that it “was way too aggressive.”
@jxhnxthxnv, the TikTok user who posted the video, responded to everyone: “Guys, again, I’m not trying to cancel Arthur. This is a joke that most of you have handled the wrong way. This is just a kid’s show lol.”
In sum, it’s true that an old episode of “Arthur” featured the phrase “he’s a knitter” in a nightmare set in colonial times.