Peppa Pig: how the ham-fisted cartoon butchered its charm
While not without its controversies, the porcine kids show matured into a true worldwide phenomenon. Then, like Skynet, it became too self-aware
Kids are morons. You cant talk to them about Brexit, or Trump, or the theory of everything. No. You have to tackle such philosophical questions as Why do I have to go to bed? or Why do I have to have a bath? Kids TV-viewing habits are equally moronic. Take Peppa Pig, a British cartoon about four-year-old Peppa Pig and her family. Theres younger brother George, Mummy Pig, Granny Pig, Grandpa Pig and Daddy Pig. Peppas classmates are cats, dogs, sheep, zebras, elephants and ponies. Her teacher is a gazelle. Its the greatest multicultural school of all time.
At five minutes an episode, there is little room for cliffhangers or plot twists. In Windy Castle, the Pigs get lost on the way to Windy Castle, because Daddy Pig is navigating and Daddy Pig is rubbish at navigating. In Daddy Pig Puts Up a Picture, Daddy Pig knocks a giant hole in the wall, because Daddy Pig is rubbish at DIY. Each episode ends with everybody literally rolling around on the floor with laughter. Black Mirror, this is not.
Of course, you want to hate the banality of it. You want to punch Daddy Pig in the glasses for being so stereotypical. But you cannot help but get drawn in. Especially when you realise that kids are absolutely mesmerised by this piggy guff. To them, its bacon heroin. Peppa Pig first aired for 208 episodes between 2004 and 2012, becoming a worldwide smash. Merchandise sales amounted to 200m in 2010 in the UK alone, and Peppa Pig World opened in Hampshire in 2011.
There has been controversy. The One Where Peppa and George Make Friends With Mr Skinny Legs the Spider is no longer shown in Australia. Dr Brown Bears efficiency at jumping in his ambulance to prescribe antibiotics to anyone with as little as a cough was genuinely claimed by a GP to promote unrealistic expectations of primary care in 2017. In 2018, Peppa Pig got into trouble in China after being adopted as a subversive gangster icon. Yes, really.
Peppa Pig was re-commissioned in 2016 (with guest voices from David Mitchell and Jo Brand) which, for any parent who had sat through every single episode a million times, came as a blessed relief. But, there was a problem. Like Skynet, Peppa Pig had become self-aware. There were subtle in-jokes aimed directly at the parents. No ones mummy or daddy wants to stay at Richard Rabbits birthday party in Soft Play, for fear of getting stuck (SPOILER ALERT! Daddy Pig gets stuck). Zoo Keeper Lion has to restrain himself from eating Madame Gazelle for lunch in The Zoo. Daddy Pigs car is a robot-dragons footstep away from getting crushed when he ignores the parking warnings in The Castle. And the slapstick is turned up to adult when Daddy Pig sets himself in concrete, Granny pig falls into a pile of manure, and Daddy Pig falls out of a plane with no parachute, Homer-Simpson-falling-down Springfield-Gorge-style.
Now, suddenly, the joke is on you. You are the idiot for getting sucked in. Peppa Pigs creators are multi-millionaires. What have you done with your life? Youve been upstaged by a two dimensional pig, thats what. And you are simply too pig-headed to notice. Oink oink.