Long live her Porcine Majesty: An American’s praise of Peppa Pig

Neil Newton: Author of the The Railroad on Amazon

The Railroad on Facebook

Sounds pretty hoaky, doesn’t it? But I love Peppa Pig. I don’t love it because of what it does for my granddaughter because I’m not sure what the she gains by watching Peppa and, at the age of four, she’s not talking.
I love Peppa Pig
There are many reasons. First there is the unavoidable thrill of seeing families that are better and more healthy and nurturing than most I’ve seen. As you get older you start to realize that the truism that there are no normal families is not a truism. It is close to a truth. Living in a coherent community with parents who are always there to guide through difficult situations or to enhance learning opportunities is an amazing thing to watch, even when it involves cartoon animals.
There is also the human element, increasingly absent in American cartoons. I have seen Team Umizumi and marvel at their high tech, incremental teaching of shapes and math. I can’t dismiss the amazing hack of childhood learning that Milli, Geo and Bot manage to achieve over and over again. However, while the tiny trio can find pieces of a skateboard scattered through Umi city, I don’t think that pattern power could do much to help when Peppa and best friend, Suzie sheep, have a major falling out. Mighty math powers don’t make it when Peppa and her friend, dressed as various nations for special school day can’t find a way to get along.
There is nothing wrong with technical learning. Sesame Street in our own country pioneered the practice and passed the level of being iconic years ago. Yet even Sesame Street has a face and a personality. Miss Piggy, Cookie Monster, all of them are as much a part of our American family as Mickey Mouse.
Paw Patrol comes closer to a presenting a family environment and a sense of community. But it also depends heavily on what I feel is the downfall of American cartoons: the tendency toward Glitz. For those a little too young to know the word, Glitz is sort of the bling of a media presentation, using slick animation technicques and breezy, empty dialogue reminiscent of “The right stugff”. There is very little humanity in repeated spiffy mottos like “Chase is on the case”.
I can see the value of a show like Paw Patrol even as I criticize it. The message is clearly that persistence and focus, and the desire to help others, can win the day. No limits. This has become a mantra in our country and, while it’s a valueable lesion, it ignores the complexities of facing the real issues in our personal lives.
Peppa and her friends are members of families, the crucibles that form the human mind. In terms of the complexity of family life and its constant challenges, this is where the rubber meets the road. Peppa, her brother George, and her parents deal with the same issues all families deal with. And, like most families, they are contentious, often become snarky with each other. Peppa is not at all hesitant to express her disgust over George’s obsession with dinosaurs and she expresses it often. Yet somehow, her parents seem to guide her and brother in the right direction, not letting a possible conflict become part of the fabric of their family. All in all Peppa and company are a class act. There are yelling matches between Peppa and her best friend, Susie Sheep. In the end it is Daddy Pig, my personal favorite, who lets the air out of the bag by telling a rather brassy Peppa and and argumentative Suzie that they need to realize that they are the same in their willfulness and that is why they are best friends.
There are many moments like this on Peppa pig. The characters are often pompous, overly proud and occasionally condescending. But when it hits the fan (yes I am American) they are together. This mirrors the truth of growing up in a family and a community.
If you have children, watch Peppa pig. Even if you don’t have children, if you are student of the human heart, watch Peppa Pig. It is the best “hack” of humanity I’ve ever seen in the media. It teaches you that working together as a family is possible and, in my opinion, it also teaches you that maintaining your bond with others is more important than becoming a real estate mogul in a big city.

Neil Newton: Author of the The Railroad on Amazon

The Railroad on Facebook


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