Poor Peppa Pig. Just like a legion of seemingly innocuous TV characters before her, she has been blamed for the degeneration of children's behaviour with her porcine peccadilloes and wanton ways.
Whilst the Teletubbies twisted infants' arms behind their backs and forced them to talk gibberish, and Bungle from Rainbow led small children to believe it was FINE to be best friends with odd men named Geoffrey, Peppa, supposedly, infiltrates toddlers' subconscious with commands of 'jump in muddy puddles' 'demand chocolate cake' and 'refuse all vegetables.' Poor Peppa.
But it's just all so predictable, isn't it?
Let's go back a few years. Or decades.
It's 1983, I am 10, and I am glued to our newly purchased colour television for there, on Channel Four, are a clutch of crimped haired, glossy lipped kids gyrating their hips and kicking their heels in precocious impersonation of everyone from Sheena Easton to Olivia Newton John. They were the Mini Pops (see our video below for the full horror!) and I wanted to be one.
My fixation was short lived. My mother's head appeared through the serving hatch from our kitchen and she gave a howl like a scalded cat.
"Get those TARTS of that television!" she shrieked. "Disgusting! Letting children parade around like that! And don't you be getting any ideas, lady!"
But the damage, in my mum's mind at least, had been done. That mere glimpse of the Mini Pops turned my head. Just days after, I secured a Constance Caroll Peppermint Pink lipstick for 32p from our local bargain shop.
The moment my mother clapped eyes on it, the blame for its purchase, its presence on my lips, and even its very existence was laid firmly at the door of the Mini Pops. Neither they nor the lippy were seen in my house again.
A few years previously, Grange Hill had gone a similar way for a while. A scene where a girl threw her too-tight bra in a river whilst some other kids set fire to a field had my mum pursing her lips for England, and the programme was deemed unsuitable and 'would give me ideas'.
I was seven and had little knowledge of either bras or fires, and oddly enough, did not try to in any way replicate either scene I'd witnessed, but for a few years at least, Grange Hill remained out of bounds and I became aware of the notion that TV was considered a Bad Influence.
At the time, I thought I was the only person to have my own personal Mary Whitehouse presiding over the telly at home. But talking to friends and colleagues in light of the recent Peppa Pig Controversy, it seems not.
"Another mum had told mine that the Magic Roundabout was 'something to do with drugs'" one friend told me, as we discussed programmes our parents banned, "And suddenly, it went from being that 'sweet programme' with the woolly dog and the snail, to that 'disgraceful' show whose name must never be mentioned."
"I wasn't allowed to watch anything American," another friend sadly 'fessed up. "Awful really as I was growing up in the 90s when the American kids' TV shows were really taking off over here – Saved by the Bell, Sweet Valley High, 90210 – my mum banned them all. American teenagers 'got away with too much', apparently, and I would start copying them if I watched. I still did of course – round my mates houses!"
Ah yes, American TV was similarly disapproved of in my home – Americans with their fake teeth, loose morals and bad denim posed a whole new risk to my health and well-being. Except, oddly enough for Dallas, which I watched without fail from about the age of seven on the little portable TV I was inexplicably (for a TV hating household) given for my bedroom.
Mini Pops wearing lipstick = bad, Texans who lived at home with their wives AND their mum, still called their old man 'Daddy' and did much bed-hopping = good. No wonder I was a very confused child.
So what approach have I adopted with my own son, now eight? Lax, basically. He has genuinely never shown much interest in the telly, though that's not to say I did not shove his bouncy chair in front of Cbeebies when I needed to go down the garden and scream when he was a tiddler. Now he watches Dr Who and Stunt Patrol Down Under and that's about it.
But would I want him watching re-runs of the Mini Pops or certain episodes of Grange Hill? Hmmm. At his current age, probably not, and things have changed enough since 1983 to make the Mini Pops just plain wrong anyway, but I can't see me ever blaming Dr Who for any time travel or regenerating he does in the future. But it IS amazing and does fascinate me endlessly just how much blame some parents WILL lay at the door of TV shows. The whole Peppa Pig debacle was just laughable, as was the Teletubbies nonsense that went before it. But for ultimate biscuit taking, I will leave you with this gem from a male colleague:
"My grandma didn't want me watching She Ra or He Man because it would "turn me funny". Her stock phrase for 'catching the gay'. Personally I think her using the Golden Girls as a babysitting device probably had more to do with it, but I can see why she'd think a show featuring a statuesque blonde in a miniskirt running around with a rainbow-winged unicorn would do that to a child. She also had a really weird obsession with trying to prevent me from watching The Animals of Farthing Wood..."
The Mini Pops - so many flavours of wrong:
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