Bryan Appleyard recently wrote a fine piece on that pervasive cultural phenomenon of our times, the Hapless (not to say comprehensively incompetent and pathetic) Male - here's a link... Oddly he makes no mention of Peppa Pig - perhaps he's lucky enough never to have encountered the phenomenon.
Peppa Pig, I should explain, is a hugely popular porcine - hugely popular, that is, with the nation's toddlers. The adventures of Peppa and her family - not to mention all the spin-off merchandise - are everywhere in the toddler's world, and the stories (crudely drawn and lazily written) appear to exert a mysterious fascination, bordering on addiction. My granddaughter - who, as I might have mentioned before, is the most adorable two-year-old on the planet - is, alas, a huge fan of Peppa Pig, and currently can't get enough of a compendium volume containing six stories of Peppa and her family. Heaven knows how many times I and her parents and grandmother have read her these stories - and how we have suffered in the process.
But where, you might be asking, does the Hapless Male come in? He takes the form of Daddy Pig, a character whose ill-shaven face resembles a scrotum and who represents Hapless Masculinity in excelsis. This is a man - okay, boar - who would be hard pressed to (as the Australians say) find his bum with both hands. Everything he attempts results in epic failure and humiliation. When he takes the wheel of a car, he will instantly get lost and have to be helped out by Mummy Pig or any other (by definition omnicompetent) female who happens to be around. When the oil runs low, he will prove himself unable even to find the engine without the help of a passing woman - okay, sheep.
On a visit to the funfair, Daddy Pig throws a wobbly when he reaches the top of the helter skelter and proves so shaky afterwards that he can't wield the hammer on the 'test your strength' set-up, so Mummy Pig takes over and instantly rings the bell and wins the prize. Yes, this sad sap doesn't even have physical strength or strong nerves, let alone mental competence or basic life skills. Only once does Daddy Pig demonstrate anything resembling a useful ability: this is in the last story in the volume, when he unexpectedly proves capable of diving to the bottom of the swimming pool to retrieve a lost item for a friend of Peppa's, who thanks him by kicking water into his uncomplaining imbecilic face.
Happily the adorable granddaughter is also under the spell of Beatrix Potter and Shirley Hughes and Maurice Sendak and an ever growing range of benign literary influences, so it's unlikely Peppa Pig will have made any lasting impression. However, it's come to something, hasn't it, when such a blatantly sexist, emasculating version of family life passes without comment and is regarded as normal, healthy fare for very young minds?