Saturday, 14 April 2012

Banning pirate TV

I am struggling with pirates at the moment.

They are everywhere - Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Space Pirates, Aardmans latest film, cleverly titled The Pirates, pirate-themed children's parties, pirate-themed bedrooms. Why?

Why are we so determined for our children to enjoy watching the activities of criminals, let alone dress up as them or adorn their sleeping spaces with them? I await CBeebies version of The Great Train Robbery with interest - "Oh Mr Biggs, you're a very naughty boy, you must give it all back, hurrah!"

My beef is that pirates are not supposed to be entertaining, and while in many kids' TV programmes they are often portrayed as the baddies, they are generally seen as bumbling fools who rarely win the day, but in reality they were not cuddly characters, they were ruthless criminals.

Piracy is an act of robbery or criminal violence at sea. Beneath the romanticism that has watered down their history, pirates were / are violent offenders - and I just can't sanction them being plastered all over walls in our house, or stuck to a bedspread. You might as well have Fred West wall stickers. Or send them to a party dressed as Jack the Ripper.

What example does it set children if we let think thieves are fun? I am not blaming Jake and the Neverland Pirates for last summer's riots - but you never know!

Was I the only child of the 70s to see through Captain Pugwash? He was portrayed as pompous and stupid but still likeable and still usually won the day. I just wanted him arrested.

Mind you, despite being a pirate, he was rarely seen committing any acts of piracy - because if he did it wouldn't be suitable as a children's TV programme would it?! Aaagghhh!

I know that kids' TV isn't always realistic. I know that pigs don't really talk, or any other animal - or vegetable, in Mr Bloom's case. I know that there is no such thing as a Problem Blob, a ZingZilla Island or a Night Garden, but can accept them as fanciful products of the imagination. Making pirates cuddly or funny, I cannot. I blame Johnny Depp (but not so much that if he came round to my house I wouldn't invite him in!).

Yes, you may have gathered, I have a real bee in my bonnet about this which many people, including my husband, just laugh at. But I was delighted to find my brother spouting the same unprompted views at a family gathering so there must either be something in the genes, or there was some unmentionable "pirate themed incident" in our childhood that we have erased from our memories because it was so terrifying.

Thinking about it, my mum and her brother were named Wendy and Peter after J.M Barrie's characters in Peter Pan who took on the infamous Captain Hook, so this theory may not be so far removed from the truth!

I am, however, beginning to understand that when it comes to toddlers' likes and dislikes, what I like or want carries very little weight.

My two-year-old has developed a mind of her own and knows exactly what she likes. Animals are a big thing for her, as are certain TV characters - Peppa Pig, Curious George and the Numberjacks are her latest obsessions - and to be honest, if she wants her bedroom garishly tastefully decorated with any of these themes I would be more or less happy.

But if she ever asks for pirates, I will put a petulant foot down and consign them to my own personal Room 101 where they will find Rastamouse and Manchester United waiting for them. I'm sure they will get on famously.

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