Peppa Pig has Bad Parents.

Is it just me, or is Peppa just not a very good role model for our kids?

My son loves a lot of things. He loves his baby bear, he loves most types of food, he loves books of all kinds, and this week he loves Lego. But as I’m sure most parents find with their kids, he doesn’t love anything as much as the limited time he spends watching TV shows. As we don’t have a television, at the moment his entire repertoire of shows consists of Baby Einstein and Peppa Pig which we’ve downloaded to our laptop/smartphones. Most parents will agree that Peppa is a useful show, because it only lasts five minutes. The perfect amount of time to keep your kid entertained while you make the important phone call, quickly put the supper on, scream into a pillow etc, without making you feel like one of those mums who over-uses TV as a way to entertain their offspring. (After all, 5 minutes even three times a day barely counts as television, I wouldn’t even mention it. ;))

I chose Peppa Pig because I saw endless children who were obsessed with the characters, and because we had received a book with Peppa and George in our Bookstart pack from the library, and R brought it to me to read about 7 times a day. And it’s a cute show, with simple and sweet story lines. For those (luckily) not in the know, the family of pigs consists of Mummy and Daddy Pig, Grandma and Grandpa Pig (I assume Daddy Pig’s parents given the matching surname?) Peppa, who seems to be about 3 or 4, and her baby brother George, somewhere between 1 and 2. Oh the hiijinks they can get up to in five minutes!

So what bothers me? A few things, and I preface this by saying I know I’m probably being over the top, and also that I have only seen approx half of the first season and none of the others.

1. Language
Does anyone else notice the amount of times Peppa exclaims “Naughty Daddy!” or “Messy Mummy!” or “Silly Naughty Daddy!” and the entire family erupts into peals of laughter? I see that the parent in question normally joins in the laughter, so I wouldn’t say it’s exactly encouraging bullying and teasing, but surely there is a correct way to talk to your parents, and this just isn’t it! Aren’t we showing our kids at their most receptive time for learning that it’s okay to use words like naughty and silly, and not only use them but direct them to their mums and dads? Worse still, the parents reinforce this by using the same language to each other in front of the children too. Over the top or not, I find it uncomfortable.

2. Food.
I know they are a family of pigs, so maybe I’m fighting a losing battle with this one, but is there ONE episode of this show where they don’t consume junk food? Biscuits, Pancakes, Chocolate Cake, Cookie batter… and all eaten in two swift bites! Would it kill the writers to give Peppa an apple?

3. Gender Stereotyping.
Daddy Pig works in an Office. He has a flashy laptop and a big desk. If Mummy Pig does any work, it is condescendingly referred to as Very Important, and is done on the Amstrad PC she has upstairs in her bedroom. Of course, the second the computer stops working, she is all a flap and calls Daddy Pig to fix the big mean problem. He promptly turns it on and off again to rapturous applause from the females and children. Phew. What would we do without big strong men-folk.. er, pig-folk.

4. Discipline.
If the Pig residence was a real household, Super Nanny would have been called years ago. Because there is no way that Peppa and George would be such well behaved kids with the lack of discipline they are shown.

Example One
“Peppa, be careful with your bike around my prize pumpkin!”
“Yes Daddy…. [to friends “lets race to Daddy’s pumpkin!”] CRASH …sorry Daddy”
“That’s okay Peppa, as long as you’re ok, now lets make pumpkin pie as a reward for you totally ignoring what I just told you!”

Example Two
Peppa and George are jumping in Muddy Puddles. They are head to toe covered in filth. 
“Let’s go show Daddy!” 
-traipse into house spreading mud everywhere-
“Hahaha, lets get you cleaned up before Mummy Pig sees.” 

Not even a “next time don’t bring mud in the house/ take your boots off first.”

Don’t get me wrong, there are far worse characters out there, who promote much more dangerous activities than pumpkin smashing and mud slinging. And far less educational shows for toddlers as well, which seem to consist of nonsense being babbled at my baby for twenty or thirty minutes. (If I wanted that, I would put him in front of a mirror.) In comparison, Peppa Pig is pretty harmless.

Yet it bothers me that in any episode where Peppa does something naughty, she either looks sheepish for about 3 seconds until her family erupts into laughter, or she says “sorry Daddy/Mummy” in the singsongiest of voices until she gets a tooth decaying treat for her trouble.

I’m not saying they should fill the show with Peppa sitting on the naughty step and receiving lessons on her 5 a day. I’m just not sure I want R looking up to her that much either.

“You’re just not right for this competition..” Yeah, try ToneDeaf Idol.

As part of my interest (aka obsession) with BBC3 documentaries, I find time to schedule in a healthy dose of reality TV. C and I, always looking to take the road less travelled, opt to be fans of American Idol as opposed to being forced to watch (overt racist) Louis Walsh, on the X factor. But certainly in the opening rounds, these shows are all the same. We are treated to a parade of oddity, watching deluded young person followed by deluded old person all sounding truly dreadful. Suddenly, (cue the slow music) in walks a gal with a dream, (and a sob story) and we are blown away by how anyone could possibly hold so much talent against such adversity, squeezing tears from all the judges, a standing ovation, and that all important wink from Simon Cowell himself.

I’m more interested in the mentality of the deluded contestants. In my job, I have to turn a lot of people down. It appears to me, that ‘Book Idol’ would have just as long a queue in their sleeping bags outside the audition theatre as any other reality show I’ve seen. And what do all the ‘no-hopers’ have in common across all these shows? Generally it’s the incredulous look on their face when told no. But I’ve never been told I cant sing. All my family and friends are supporting me. I’ve been singing since I was a fetus. I’m going to get a million dollar record contract and then you’ll be sorry. It doesnt change in the world of publishing. I was told it’s unputdownable. I’ve never wanted to do anything but write. I’m going to make more money than JK Rowling and then you’ll be sorry.

Before I get hailed as Simone Cowell and booed off the literary stage, let me make myself clear. I do know that writing is far more subjective than singing. And I agree that none of the rejects from the Idol shows were ever multi platinum recording artists (well, not serious ones. Cheeky girls anyone?) wheras many authors have long tales of woe at being rejected countless times before becoming bestsellers. I am not talking about the ‘not quites’. Unfortunately, reality TV hardly shows the hopefuls who, whilst perfectly pleasant sounding and maybe even good singers, get sent home packing because the ‘x factor’ just isnt there. The same with books. What I might think is not quite good enough, could be someone elses page turner, and that is just the nature of the art. I am not talking about the literary equivalant of Same Difference, or Darius, or Jedward. I am talking about the gobby girl who comes onto the stage, tells everyone how incredible she is, shouts into the microphone, and then throws a fit when she’s told it was the worst audition Simon has ever heard. (How many of those can there be?)

I truly dont understand how people can continue to let their friends and family make utter fools of themselves, and in the case of writing, waste their time in such fruitless efforts. As a friend once said, “You might tell them they sound very nice, but you would never say ‘wow! you’re incredible-you could win the x factor!'”  But that’s not what’s on my mind today. I’m wondering about the crazy self belief these people have. So many times, the camera follows the contestant out of the building to them affirming “I’m never gonna give up, singing is my life.” With writing, I’ve lost count of the number of repeat submissions I’ve recieved telling me they’ve hugely improved what had less va va voom than R’s push along tractor. Unsurprisingly, they haven’t.

These people have a huge amount of self belief. It may be unfounded, but it’s pretty darn impressive. And yet, in our lives as parents, all we need is a glance from another mother, and many of us are immediately drenched with an outpouring of mother’s guilt. What am I doing wrong? Am I a good enough mum? Do I spend enough time with my baby? In our less than superstardom career aspirations, it’s the same story. Should I even bother applying for this job? Is my CV awful? Is it worth asking for a raise?

I’m left confused. Perhaps when we’re dealing with creativity, it is so hard to get ahead that we need buckets of confidence even when we ARE good enough. How much more true when we aren’t. Maybe there is so much worrying and insecurity about everyday life, we try to pick themselves up by inventing an impossible dream to believe in.

We all have worries that we’re secretly not good enough. We all look at the guy across the office, or the mother pushing the pram in front, or the friend juggling her life with ease, and wonder if and how we measure up. And we all put on a brave face and get on with life. But I would never apply for The Mum Factor. Or Reading Idol. Even though I’m pretty confident I’m good at both those things.I’m not sure I would even put my name down for Sleep Academy. (and we all know I could sleep for England.) So of course, it’s even more obvious that I’m not going to be signing up for ‘So you think you can dance’ or any kind of sporting challenge.

So I will continue to be shocked by the sheer volume of tone-deaf people who travel miles to be laughed off a stage. Shocked, and amused, but still slightly in awe of their self-belief.