Is ‘Peppa Pig’ mind control?
by Pseud O'Nym
Bear with me! It’s an audacious claim to make, to be sure, but if you’re a parent who’s ever been subjected to Peppa Pig you might well agree. If however you are not a parent – and are not likely to become one in the near future – count your blessings for ye know not of what I speak. As far as ‘Peppa Pig’ is concerned, ignorance is bliss. I am neither, but share a house with a charmingly delightful child, Little Miss Sunshine. This is why I ask if indeed ‘Peppa Pig’ is mind control, having been made to endure it countless times, as there not being a television in our house (the sewage goes out and not in!) and whilst she can watch it on her parents phones, my laptop has a bigger screen, and is therefore her preferred option. Believe me when I write that I’ve commanded by the tyrannical overlord to watch it. Again. And again. There are sadists out there who put three hour (!) compilations of ‘Peppa Pig’ on youtube, misguided individuals afflicted by the delusional belief that what one needs is yet more from the frankly painful porcine.
The first assault on the senses is the annoying theme tune, written, so the credits have it, by the same bloke who wrote the music for ‘Wallace and Grommit’. Barely have you recovered from that blow then another, in the form of a visual affront to common decency, in the guise of it’s animation hoves into view. I say animation in the loosest possible sense. ‘Peppa Pig’ is to animation what Primark is to haute couture. Using a palette of only bright colours, it must be nightmare for an adult first thing in the morning. Thankfully I’m spared that. But there is much, much worse to come. Now I know ‘Peppa Pig’ is not aimed at my demographic, but notwithstanding that, makers of childrens entertainment are aware that it is not only the children they have to entertain. Adults have to like it too.
At the risk of coming across all Jerry Falwel (pardon!) – the former spokesmen for America’s Moral Majority, who denounced the ‘Teletubbies’, on the grounds that it didn’t provide a good role model for children because Tinky Winky was gay – ‘Peppa Pig‘ presents a one-dimensional view of the world, one that to an adult celebrates conformity and eschews anything outside of that. ‘Peppa Pig’ is to me, as entertaining as I imagine being buried alive is. Here’s why.
First off is the lazy way the character of ‘Daddy Pig’ is depicted. Always unshaven, frequently getting things wrong, as lazy as he is fat, if a woman was portrayed in this way, there’d be an outcry. But hey! We all know men are crap. ‘Mummy Pig’ is by contrast, an oracle of common sense and cool, calm, logic. It’s as though there’s a deliberate attempt to invert the sexist stereotype of the past by creating stereotypes of their own. And of course, ‘Peppa Pig’ herself. She is as annoying cheerful as she is permanently seeking to control both events and others. She is not, I need hardly add, lacking in self confidence, aided in this dubious emotional grounding by her indulgent parents, who are seemingly unaware that in later life she will turn on them with a vengeance, blaming them for them for the car crash that has been her life.
I’m aware that any children’s programme will, when scrutinized in detail by an adult will be found deficient in some ways. But ‘Peppa Pig’ abuses that level of scrutiny. Just because millions of under fives watch it, doesn’t therefore mean it’s any good! Viewing figures don’t equate with quality. Eastenders anyone? Exactamudo. It’s the parents who are woken at far too early o’clock to watch it I feel for. Their children see a warm and reassuring view of the world whereas their parents know a doctor won’t make an immediate home visit for a cough.
There is one episode in particular that annoys me though and Little Miss Sunshine never seems to tire of it. In the episode ‘Recycling’, ‘Peppa’ learns all about recycling. Fair enough, we don’t recycle enough. But it was when ‘Peppa’ first said, “Recycling is fun!” I knew something was wrong. For a start, I can’t imagine anyone of any age saying that, and second, it reminded me of those ‘Blue Peter’ fundraising campaigns, whereupon children were encouraged to send in milk bottle tops – remember them – and they’d be turned via charity alchemy into wells in drought ridden Africa. It is the same, rather paternalistic worldview that existed then which is prevalent now. That is the whole mind control thing, or to be less chilling but more cunning, behaviour channeling. The prevalent societal attitudes of now are introduced and then reinforced over time by the media we consume, which in turn influences the choices we make. Or are they our choices?
Did you know that the nephew of Sigmund Freud – the one with all the theories about the unconscious mind and how essentially everything could be reduced to suppressed sexual desires – applied the theories of his uncle to advertising with predictably successful results?
If ‘Peppa’ Pig’ proves one thing, then it is the truism of the Jesuit maxim “Give me the child by the age of seven and I will give you the man.’ because all of us remember television when we were children as being much better than it actually was. That is what adults do, remember a mythical childhood of majestic sun drenched summers that lasted forever, Christmas’s where it snowed, where really bad things seldom happened – and if they did, they happened to other people, people you only know briefly from newspapers – and that is what the children of now will think when they’re adults. I’m aware that to some extent, I’m highlighting the flaw in my own argument.
But as I’m fond of saying, “The only constant thing about me is my inconstancy”]
From an egregious use of the medium to an excellent use of it, in the shape of Adam Curtis and his new documentary, available on iPlayer, ‘Bitter Lake’. Curtis – who bought us ‘The power of Nightmares’ one of his award winning documentary’s’ – combines challenging yet interesting ideas with a visual flair that is breathtaking in its audacity. Watch a short film he made for Charlie Brookers Screenwipe here (only 5mins) or watch ‘Bitter Lake’ on iPlayer (until 2015).