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Peppa Pig and the trivialising of morality

Before I had my children I worked as a magazine editor, and in a workshop on what we should be putting on our covers we were told to “find your Peppa Pig”. We were told the story of a kids’ magazine that often had Peppa Pig in a prominent place on its cover. Every time she was moved to a less conspicuous position, sales plummeted. So we were told to find whatever was our equivalent of Peppa Pig that would drive sales. I didn’t fully understand Peppa’s influence, though, until I became a mum.


Why is she so popular?

So why exactly is she so popular? Child psychologists suggest it’s because the animation is simple and brightly coloured, with easy-to-follow plots, combined with the fact that the merchandise is everywhere – leading toddlers to be constantly reminded of their snorty friend.

I wonder if it might be something more, though, something telling us about who we are as humans; after all, there are plenty of brightly coloured cartoons around. If you’ve never seen it (and if that’s you, I envy you!), each ten-minute episode centres around four-year-old Peppa, her two-year-old brother George, Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig, and their friends, as they go about their business. Nothing particularly out of the ordinary happens (except for the fact that the pigs talk and hold down jobs etc).

I wonder if it’s this prosaic nature of the series that is so appealing to small children. They live in a safe home on top of a hill, Mummy and Daddy love each other and the children, they both have jobs, they’ve got lots of different friends, and the worst thing that’s ever happened is that Mummy Pig once got stuck in a blackberry bush. In our world where all sorts of things are changing, from what a family looks like, to who marriage is between, to how gender is assigned, it is reassuringly normalising. And why not? I’m sure that young children are increasingly being confused. We recently read a book aimed at two-year-olds that was aggressively pro-transgenderisim with no meaningful critique.

When faced with all of these things (alongside the regular things that might worry a toddler, such as starting playgroup, staying at Grandma’s house, or having a power cut), the world of Peppa Pig is reassuringly safe. Each episode follows the same format, the characters act in predictable ways, and all of the scenarios are familiar to these small people. Does this show us that we were made to enjoy predictability? At an age without pretension, are our young children showing us that deep down we long for our unchanging creator God? Maybe. And that we were made for relationships? It could do.

Showing us who we are

But I think it also reveals something else about our nature. Peppa is naughty. And my two-year-old loves that. I couldn’t tell you anything specific that Peppa does that’s wrong, it’s more of an attitude, something subtle, but which is picked up on by our kids. My daughter was only one year old when she started calling me ‘silly Mummy’, and I realised she’d picked it up from Peppa Pig.

Daddy Pig seems to be the butt of every joke, and Peppa is very quick to point out how ‘silly’ he is, or how big his tummy is. We are called to honour our father and mother, and children very early on know this to be the case, which I think is why they love this world where this is not enforced, and everything centres around Peppa – she seems to be the one in charge, the one who knows best.

Naturally, we are all in rebellion to God. That is, ever since Adam and Eve first sinned, our hearts don’t work how they were meant to – we love ourselves more than we love God. I knew in theory that all humans since then are born sinful, but I didn’t truly understand it until I had children of my own, and Peppa Pig highlights this I think.

So, will I continue to let my children watch Peppa Pig? Yes. Partly because I don’t know how I’d shower or cook dinner otherwise. But also because it is not TV’s job to teach my children morality.

Written by Katie Holloway


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