Let’s all be honest with ourselves for a moment here: we all use the TV to our parenting advantage at some point. It is, after all, a very useful tool, although according to folklore it makes your eyes go square. It has the potential to educate and inform our children, and perhaps above all keep them occupied for ten minutes while we get stuff done that really needs seeing to – preparing dinner, tidying their toys away, checking Facebook…
Screens are a part of our everyday life, and I am passionate about massively limiting the time our children spend in front of them and encouraging them to engross themselves in something practical, in the real world, that we as parents can be involved with. I love interacting with my daughter and striving towards our shared goal of building a Lego castle, completing a jigsaw or making something out of junk. That being said, the TV is a constant tease for them, sitting in the corner ready to be switched from blank screen to glorious high definition colour and sound at a moment’s notice. Therefore, before Matilda had even been born, I set myself the mission of nudging her gently towards quality programming, with an educational element if possible. She was barely formed in Frankie’s womb when she had a Fireman Sam DVD waiting for her – quality programming, albeit possibly missing this aforementioned educational element. Though I suppose it teaches you about the potential perils of the chip pan.
Things took a backwards step, however, when aged around two she discovered the pig. You know the one – the little brat who seems to pop everywhere. Peppa. Bloody Peppa bloody Pig – the hog who has conquered more minds and screens than Big Brother in 1984. She even has her own theme park for crying out loud. OK, so the episodes featuring every child’s favourite oinker are a handy five minutes long, so she does not have to be endured for long at all (if you/your children watch just one), but that is just about all the show has going for it. OK, sometimes the dad does something stupid enough to make me laugh, but still this characterisation of the show’s main players annoys the hell out of me.
Let’s have a quick run-down of the main characters:
Peppa. She is annoying, brattish, and basically gets what she wants by being obnoxious.
George. How old is he, two? Yet all he does is cry and repeat the word ‘dinosaur’. Arrrrgh!
Daddy Pig. An idiot. He can’t do anything, and anything he does manage to do invariably goes wrong. He is overweight, a fact often referred to by his fat-shaming daughter: “You’ve got a fat tummy!”.
Mummy Pig. The only sane one. She bends to satisfy all of Peppa’s whims and clears up the mess made by Daddy Pig.
What kind of example is this lead character to our children in arguably their most formative years – be annoying, get what you want? And what sort of expectations does the show give them of family life?
The show’s popularity absolutely bemuses me, and I pray (or do whatever it is that is like praying that atheists do) that it goes down the pan very quickly. Fortunately Matilda cottoned on to my disdain for the Pig family, and is now obsessed with Scooby Doo. And although its educational potential could be questioned, I won’t hear a word against it in terms of quality viewing and entertainment value, 50 years (!!) after it was first shown. Plus at 20 minutes an episode it gives me that added time to cook up something extra special, clean up those extra few toys, or spend longer checking out my Facebook timeline.