I’m going to say something that might shock you – in my opinion, Peppa Pig is a terrible role model for children.
Yes, I am talking about the wildly-popular, squeaky-voiced, cutesy animated TV series that’s broadcast in a whopping 180 territories, including the US and Australia. The one that has a theme park named after it and a whole range of bright pink merchandise, including ‘talking’ toys that say things like, “I’m Peppa Pig!” late at night, when the rest of the world is asleep.
It’s truly the stuff of nightmares – and not just because of Peppa’s annoyingly middle-class accent, which young US viewers are reportedly picking up.
No. In my opinion, Peppa Pig is far more insidious than that. Here are four reasons why (and yes, this is the hill I’m prepared to die on):
1) Peppa Body Shames Daddy Pig.
Admittedly, Daddy Pig isn’t in great shape (have you ever heard him ask for anything but cookies and chocolate cake?). But that’s no excuse for teaching pre-school kids that it’s okay to fat-shame.
Tune in and you can’t miss it: Peppa constantly goes on about her dad’s “big belly” or his “big tummy”. In one episode, Daddy Pig tries to join Peppa in her treehouse, only to get wedged in the door – while Peppa, Mummy Pig and George laugh and laugh. Not to mention the fact Peppa’s top-secret password to the treehouse in the first place is (wait for it): ‘Daddy’s Big Tummy’.
We’re also encouraged to lol at the episode where Daddy Pig goes to the swimming pool. There he is, in his trunks, about to use the diving board... when Peppa reminds him – with an absolute stinging barb – “Silly Daddy, your tummy is too big.” With kids like thais, who needs enemies? And I’m not the only one who’s noticed it:
Ahh the regular dose of body shaming on Peppa Pig. Looking forward to one day explaining why some cartoon pigs are wrong to my daughter.— Matt Collins (@charitychap) April 25, 2016
Why did the writers of peppa pig ever think I was appropriate to make fun of fat people?Kids think it's okay to laugh at 'daddy's big tummy'— Louise Walker (@louisewalkerx) February 20, 2016
It’s hard enough teaching kids to think about other people’s feelings. They say what they see – whether it’s laughing at somebody’s “funny hat” on the Tube or loud, innocent questions about why someone is in a wheelchair. And they point. A lot.
The school playground can be a difficult place to navigate at the best of times. Surely we want to teach them to be as sensitive as possible to avoid causing unnecessary hurt? So rather than commenting on someone’s “big belly”, how about picking out people’s unique and beautiful bits, instead? Like Daddy Pig’s graceful diving style. He’s like a delicate, slightly-rounded mermaid.
2) It Reinforces Gender Stereotypes.
I have big issues with this. HUGE. Because it happens all the time. From Peppa and her gal pals dominating Peppa’s treehouse and telling Peppa’s baby brother George that boys “aren’t allowed”, to Daddy Pig’s football shirt getting dyed accidentally pink. In that episode, Daddy Pig assumes his shirt “must be one of Mummy’s dresses” and says pink “isn’t a good colour for a football shirt” (wrong: everyone from Barcelona to Gillingham has played in pink).
Daddy Pig also asks George what he thinks of pink – to which the mostly non-verbal George replies: “Yuk”. This exact issue caused a stir over on Mumsnet, and I can understand why. The ‘pinkification’ of little girls begins before they’re even born – and comes with a whole host of implications: that they’re “pretty” and “cute” and have to strive to be “ladylike” or later – shudder – “sexy”. Whereas blue is “for boys” because they’re “brave” and into “science” and are born “leaders”. Think outside the box, Peppa. There are more colours out there.
3) It Portrays Men As Useless.
In a reverse message to the aforementioned “boys vs girls” sexism, there’s a disturbing tendency to label Daddy Pig as totally inept and useless. While Mummy Pig dashes around doing most things – including working on her computer – Daddy Pig is lazy, forgets and loses things, and generally fails at life. One of Peppa’s standard phrases is “Silly Daddy” – a phrase that echoes in my house and in home up and down the country, I don’t doubt.
4) It Encourages Bad Behaviour.
I’d never seen my two-year-old stamp his foot and say “that’s not fair!” before he started watching Peppa Pig at nursery. Seriously. Same goes for my daughter, who’s now seven. When she was three or four, she came back from a playdate at a friend’s where they’d binge-watched Peppa Pig and immediately started foot-stamping. And when I asked her where she’d learned the familiar phrase, “it’s not fair”, she immediately dobbed in a very familiar pink snout. Ouch.
So when it comes to Peppa Pig, I’m sorry, but I’m out. If anyone wants me, I’ll be switching on the wonderful Hey Duggee, instead.