Monday, 31 August 2015

Peppa Pig and the Crisis of Masculinity

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?


12 comments:

  1. Loins may require girding, Nige, the Handel-kultur industry aiming it's wares at sprogs is vast, including oodles of music that pre-teens endlessly digest. We have recently been exposed, during a long car journey and at some volume, to a band called Haim, it's lead screecher is described by Wikipedia as being known for her amusing facial expressions while playing. Haim has been compared to 1970s soft-rock'

    A statement that can surely elicit no response.

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  2. Feliz cumpleanos, Peppa! Currently idling my days away on the Costa del Crime, it will please you not-at-all Nige to learn that the market for Peppa Pig 'products' (PPP) down here south of the border, comes in at No 2, just behind the UK, and evidence of the virus is everywhere.
    My own adorable two-year-old granddaughter has just returned to Blighty, but whilst she was here, the next-to-useless 'virtual' Daddy Pig was almost as big a part of her life as real-life 'Grampy', sad to say.
    Nobody brought up in the immediate post-war era would recognise this shambling, blundering excuse-for-a-pig. Back then we didn't 'buy new' - we fixed things that were worn-out or broken. We grew beards because we could (or couldn't) - not because we felt so emasculated that we needed to look like lumberjacks without having to buy an axe.

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  3. http://roseatetern.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/the-crisis-in-masculinity.html

    Wrote a spoof piece (above) on this myself February last year Nige. Thought you might enjoy it. Loved Bryan's "simply reversing the polarity of prejudice does not feel like progress" and "If feminism has to be underwritten by misandry, then it has. failed". Got to say that Katniss Everdene is one of my heroines though.

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  4. Before Peppa Pig came the Berenstain Bears, a never-ending series from the 80's and 90's about an ursine family of four. Devoid of wonder, terror or any kind of fantasy, they featured one mundane domestic tale after another. Dumpy but shrewd, at times manipulative, mother knew precisely how to solve every riveting challenge while father, although handy with a hammer, was such a clod he needed life-counseling lessons from his kids. A whole generation of parents was condemned to read this schlock to their children at bedtime. It was a race to see who would fall asleep first.

    Noted conservative Charles Krauthammer penned a Nige-like combination of incisive criticism and perplexed fatalism: "it is not just the smugness and complacency of the stories that is so irritating," but the bears themselves, particularly "the post-feminist Papa Bear, the Alan Alda of grizzlies, a wimp so passive and fumbling he makes Dagwood Bumstead look like Batman." He described Mama Bear as "the final flowering of the grade-school prissy, the one with perfect posture and impeccable handwriting...and now you have to visit her every night. The reason is, of course, that kids love them. My boy, 4, cannot get enough of these bears.

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  5. Great stuff - thanks, everybody. Alas, all your comments tend to confirm that things are worse than I thought - no surprise there really...

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  6. i can't recommend highly enough the dvd of the complete Ivor the Engine. It's magical and my boys both adored it. I only took exception to the anti-hunting episode 'Mrs Portey's Foxes'. Two years old is about right to start. It's ridiculously cheap on Amazon.

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  7. As a veteran of the TV series, I'd like to speak up for Daddy Pig's drumming - which was surprisingly brilliant, even though the set up clearly had everyone waiting for it to be terrible. There are also those wonderful moments where he starts talking in incredibly complicated terms about architecture, at which he is also clearly quite good. I've always thought of DP firmly in the tradition of the sitcom dad; tethered to reality for comedy's sake, but more of an odd couple punching(line) bag than anything else. That said, I'd be interested to see how a reversal of that set-up would play...

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  8. Thanks for the tip, Gaw - I've always loved Ivor the Engine, must seek out the DVD. And thanks for the new insights into Daddy Pig, Jerry - I'm very pleased to hear that he has other hidden gifts. Architecture - who'd have guessed!

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    Replies
    1. When Peppa asks him what he does, he says: "I take big numbers, transmute them, and calculate their load bearing tangents."

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