Think it’s funny that China is cracking down on Peppa Pig? Think again | Phoebe-Jane Boyd

The censorship of childrens amusement for adult aims is an old story, and everyone is at it including us, says freelance journalist Phoebe-Jane Boyd

A girl-piglet and a boy-piglet, a mummy and daddy swine , no LGBTQ characters or focus on race or religion; Peppa Pig isn’t an obvious target for controversy or counterculture adore. At first glance, it could be a pretty solid adult selection for boredom or sleep. Yet the Douyin video platform in China deems its influence to be a potentially harmful one, due to its growing popularity among the country’s shehuiren . That’s anti-establishment” gangster” internet users to some, or people who like memes and get tattoos of asinine cartoon characters because it’s a bit funny to others.

Like people who expend a lot of day on Tumblr, Reddit, or 4chan, ironic Peppa Pig fans likely aren’t a danger to the continuation of humanity as we know it. They might need tattoo-removal services at some phase, but a government forbid on the cartoons they like, as well as their associated hashtags, is a bit much. For many here in the UK, the ban in China has been taken as bizarre and hilarious. Peppa as a figurehead for” unruly slackers”, a cult-like hero calling society’s disaffected to rebel? The cartoon ? It’s always been a pedestrian watch, probably even for the generation of children it was designed for. To kids watching who come from single-parent households, have two mums, or are living in foster homes, Peppa Pig’s cosily conservative household set-up may be as otherworldly as talking animals and rabbits.

But despite Peppa being so safe- almost antiquated, even- all the sniggering about its ban from China’s media platforms is what’s truly bizarre. Because it shouldn’t be surprising at all. A group of adults use the establishment or censorship of children’s entertainment to further their own political and moral values isn’t unheard of; it’s almost de rigueur, everywhere.

Photograph: Alex Segre/ Alamy

There have been understandable examples of censure, such as the episode of the 90 s cartoon Gargoyles on gun crime, which was subsequently cut to remove the blood. Even though blood usually happens after a gunshot. And gunshots tend to happen in television episodes that have been commissioned to focus on handguns. An episode of TaleSpin was also taken off air, in this case because of its terrorism topic. Yes; the adults who made it animated Baloo to fight against terrorism. In a children’s Tv show. Running further back, there’s 1818 -4 7′ s The History of the Fairchild Family’s subsequent fall out of regular circulation … because it included a gibbet-side lesson where small children is shown the hanged corpse of war criminals. Adults of the time wanted infants to know that criminals deserved to be hanged.

If the adults in charge aren’t stealthily dripping their own politics into children’s amusement, they’re banning it afterwards when it includes politics they don’t agree with. This is what media for children is, because it’s generated, and censored, by adults for the adults they want to see in the future. It’s gentle( sometimes not so gentle) social conditioning, and always has been. Politics but, ya know, for children.

The reporting of this ban with its undercurrent of” isn’t China weird and funny compared to us- how ridiculous” ignores all this; how politics are used during the creation of entertainment for children, and afterwards by legislators themselves. This isn’t even Peppa’s first foray into the world of politics; she was part of the promotion of the Labour government’s Sure Startprogramme back in 2010. One episode of the display was banned by the Australian Broadcasting Company for dread it would encourage children to interact with dangerous spiders. The columnist Piers Akerman even accused the programme of pushing” a weird feminist line “. So China’s outlaw is not unprecedented , nor ridiculous. Not even when it involves innocent little Peppa and her brother George.

The innocuous fictional world of Peppa Pig might seem too far removed from our own to become a symbol of unrest, or moral decay in society, but like much media before it, we create it, we consume it, we use it, and we ban it. What is children’s entertainment but a means to prepare our children for the world? And what is the world but a messed-up mire of warring politics created by angry grown-ups? Children need to be ready for this wherever they live- therefore welcomed adulthood, children.

  • Phoebe-Jane Boyd is a freelance journalist who writes on politics and pop culture

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