A week ago, a columnist of the Daily Mail was telling her readers why she had suddenly decided to ban the four-time Bafta-winning cartoon Peppa Pig from her home. Is Britain's top-selling pre-school character as dangerous and evil as the journalist claims it is?
As a children's author myself, I just could not stand on the side and watch not only the innocent little Peppa, but also the Little Princess and Lola from Charlie and Lola being unfairly treated without a reaction.
Naomi Greenaway, the Daily Mail columnist, claiming, in her article, that Peppa Pig's family is composed of "Spoilt kids, a bullied husband, an antagonistic father-in-law and a mother in need of Prozac..." is not only a caricature of what the children's series actually is, but also the view of an adult, whose opinions have been shaped and influenced by decades of life experience, unlike the vision of a small child.
Yes, Peppa does stamp her feet, makes fun of her parents and her little brother George, gets upset with her friends and dislikes losing. Yes, the Little Princess is very stubborn and sometimes getting into trouble. Yes, Lola always wants to win at everything, is a fussy eater and always questioning her big brother Charlie. But, wait a minute, those are traits one can find in every child, and that is probably why most children actually identify with Peppa, Little Princess and Lola.
So, what is the problem? Ms Greenaway thinks that British authors are only "creating anti-role models for our kids", whilst in America, Mickey Mouse and Dora the Explorer do good.
In one of my children's books series, "The Book of The Animals", the animals don't want to wash in one episode, don't want to eat in another, don't want to sleep, don't want to go to school or don't even want to share. Flagrant bad behaviour, isn't it? So, why do my little readers love the books? Simply because they identify with them and their behaviour, in the same way as they identify with Peppa, Little Princess and Lola.
They know the behaviour is wrong and they want to know what happens next. They want to learn what the limits are. They want to see what the consequences to the naughty behaviour are, without having to suffer them themselves. It is a learning process we, authors, try to help parents with.
However, those parents who put their children in front of the telly in order to get some peace and quiet time, alike Ms Greenaway ("My children love them and while they're creating mischief on screen, there's blissful calm in the real world. [...] Five minutes of guaranteed time out during a 12-hour shift with three kids can feel like a two-week holiday to Hawaii."), without taking the time to discuss with them what they are watching or answer their questions, or ask them if this or that is a good or a naughty behaviour and why, cannot blame authors and producers for the entertainment they have created for their children. One cannot have the cake and still eat it.
Mentioned in the same Daily Mail article, educational and child psychologist Hannah Abrahams explains that, "if your child does end up watching Peppa Pig and starts mimicking George Pig's wail, you can say: 'You're being a bit like Peppa Pig but perhaps what you're trying to say is that it's not fair.' Eventually you want your children to be able to label their own emotions."
It is obviously every parent's choice whether they decide to ban Peppa Pig, and the likes, in their house. But a ban for the wrong reasons would be a mistake. Fictional characters cannot be blamed for their children's behaviour. When their daughter cry sounds like George Pig's or when their son pokes his tongue because he is angry, it is not just because they saw it on the telly, it is also because they know it is naughty and they have not been told so. Children are just copycats. They will copy what they watch on TV, what they see us do and say, the way their schoolmates talk at school, etc.
Peppa Pig and any other cartoon's influence on our children's behaviour only depend on us, parents. We can put a halt to naughty behaviour by explaining it to our little ones for when we take the time to talk to them, our children do understand.
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This post was first published on J.N. PAQUET's blog: www.jnpaquet.com