Peppa Pig's power grab - how TV's perfect porkies conquered the world

Watch: Boris Johnson loses track of speech and praises Peppa Pig

Peppa Pig has unexpectedly found herself the hot topic of conversation this week thanks to prime minister, Boris Johnson.

The PM was delivering a speech to the Confederation of British Industry on Monday when he launched into recounting a recent trip to the theme park devoted to the children's TV favourite.

Johnson had attended Peppa Pig World in the New Forest on Sunday on a family day out with his one-year-old son Wilfred and wife, Carrie Johnson. During the speech, he unexpectedly enthused about the attraction, much to the confusion of the audience.

“Yesterday I went, as we all must, to Peppa Pig World,” he told the collection of corporate leaders, before going on to describe the children's venue as “very much my kind of place”.

Johnson said the children’s show that spawned it exemplifies “the power of UK creativity”, citing the £6bn it has brought to the UK economy through its export to 118 countries, with theme parks also in the US and China.

The rise and rise of Peppa Pig. (Getty Images)
The rise and rise of Peppa Pig. (Getty Images)

Just to really ram home his respect for the character, he added: “No Whitehall civil servant could conceivably have come up with Peppa.”

Of course, Johnson certainly isn't the first to be fascinated by the the mysterious yet mighty pull of Peppa.

Back in 2019 Hillary Clinton gushed about Peppa after meeting one of the series' voice actors on the Graham Norton Show.

The franchise has been telling the story of Peppa, who lives with Mummy Pig, Daddy Pig and little brother George, for 17 years, hooking children and parents with their witty take on family life through hundreds of bite-sized episodes.

Created by animators Neville Astley and Mark Baker, the show was first aired on Channel 5 on 31 May 2004 and is now into its seventh season, with no fewer than 329 five-minute episodes, which frazzled parents credit for halting many a major toddler tantrum.

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Particularly popular in China, the story has been translated into multiple languages around the world and broadcast in 180 countries. It has even sparked concerns in the US that children are picking up British accents.

As well as the show itself, Peppa also has the aforementioned theme park in Hampshire, with another one scheduled to open in the United States. A third theme park is also planned in China.

The franchise has also spawned a whole host of spin-off products in a phenomenon which includes books, albums, video games and live events - you name it, there's a Peppa Pig version of it.

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Peppa Pig World with his wife and son. (Getty Images)
The Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Peppa Pig World with his wife and son. (Getty Images)

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And the popularity of the puddle-jumping pigs is showing no signs of wavering. Insight from Yahoo searches has revealed Peppa Pig to be the most searched-for children's character for years, including 2021.

Experts believe that part of Peppa's popularity stems from the emphasis on family, which is a concept that even very young children can grasp.

"Peppa Pig is a programme for the everychild," explains senior therapist Sally Baker. "Young children love all the alliterated characters and follow the storylines that reflect their own lives.

"The lovable Peppa Pig tropes condense complex real life characters into figures of endearment like bumbling dad and 'on it like a car bonnet' mum; argumentative grandad; best friends and other key players a child may recognise in real life," she adds.

Baker says as well as laughing out loud at the programme’s story lines, including inter-generational narratives, the children see themselves reflected back in the characters.

"Peppa Pig feels both familiar and idealised for children," she explains. "It echoes their own lives or how they want their lives to be, making it the perfect distraction.

"Cousins come to stay; children start nursery; summer holidays at the seaside happen - all have an element of organised chaos plus a reassuring happy conclusion when the day ends contentedly for everyone."

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Despite the colourful show having a whole legion of fans, including the PM of course, it hasn't evaded criticism.

While many praise the storylines for teaching subtle life lessons, others have accused the show of reinforcing gender stereotypes.

Back in 2019 the London Fire Brigade criticised Peppa Pig for being "sexist" and using "outdated language" in regard to their profession.

The organisation called out the hugely popular children’s TV show after a viewer shared a clip from an episode entitled The Fire Engine online.

In the video, the narrator described Mummy Pig as being “dressed as a fireman.”

The brigade shared the footage from its own account, alongside the caption: “Come on @peppapig, we’ve not been firemen for 30 years. You have a huge influence on kids & using out of date stereotypical gender specific wording prevents young girls from becoming firefighters.”

The popular TV show has spawned a whole host of products. (Getty Images)
The popular TV show has spawned a whole host of products. (Getty Images)

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Other criticism stems from the show's presentation of a traditional middle class, nuclear family structure in which “daddy pig” works while “mummy pig” looks after the children, while some object to storylines which they believe 'encourage' children to be naughty.

Meanwhile, research recently suggested children’s television shows such as Peppa Pig should do more to educate young people about everyday pain.

Researchers say Peppa Pig as well as other popular shows, too often portray pain as something arising only through violent acts or injury.

The renewed focus on Peppa will no doubt serve to reinforce the show's success - so for now, the puddle jumping pig will continue on her world-conquering way.

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