Wednesday, 16 February 2011

On 16.2.11 by KieronMoore in ,    No comments
There are some truly offensive things in the world today. Sexist football commentators, homophobic cartoons in the Daily Mail, the behaviour of Justin Bieber's fans towards the artist who beat him at the Grammies, the existence of Justin Bieber, the conservative government... the list goes on. With some things that cause offence, however, one does feel the need to grab the offendees by the lapels and shout "Goodness, my dear fellow, get a grip!" Alternatively, one could do as Rastamouse would and come up with a simple plan to make them see the error of their ways, then chill the complainers through the medium of reggae. Yes, Rastamouse, the BBC's new animated children's series, which has drawn many complaints due to its apparent stereotypical portrayal of a community of rastafarian rodents.

Thus, with the elaborate excuse of investigating whether its criticism was justified, I booted up the iPlayer, donned my rasta hat and energised myself with a Levi Roots microwaveable meal (well, one has to get into the spirit of things) before setting off on a Rastamouse marathon. I'm not embarrassed to say I was hooked from the title sequence. It's not the new The Wire and, comparing it more fairly to other children's programming, it doesn't reach the comedic peak of Shaun the Sheep, but what I found was a fun and entertaining show with a positive ethos, encouraging forgiveness and the solving of problems through kindness and understanding.

Yes, there is usage of cultural stereotypes, but neither rastafarians nor any other cultures are represented negatively. It's not that the villains are token sinister foreigners - there's a variety of characters presented with wit and style, simply living in a rastafarian inspired land, which gives the show its chilled musical feel. It is all done in a humourous, light-hearted manner which gives recognition to other cultures and will in no way make children into racists. No, recounting The Easy Crew's catchphrases in the playground doesn't count as racism, because it's not. The usage of stereotypes is harmless in the same way as that in Levi Roots' Reggae Reggae marketing campaigns and in classic characters like the french skunk Pepé Le Pew. And mice don't even smell. In fact, they're quite cute. (In this respect, complaints about rastafarians being presented as rodents are especially silly - compare with Maus, a comic book by a Jewish author about Jewish mice during the Holocaust. If they were rats, perhaps complaints would be somewhat justifiable, but they're not, so no.)

Compared to other, quite dire, children's programmes, Rastamouse truly is making a bad ting good. It's proper crucial.

The only one tiny little problem I have with Rastamouse's effect on children is the positions of authority over the orphans that seemingly reformed villains are often placed in. You've stolen all the cheese in the town? You must be lonely, why not become the chef at the orphanage? You've stolen all the town's CDs, including from the orphanage? You'd better take the orphans out on trips to your pirate radio station's boat! You've hijacked the towns water supply for your ginger beer company (yes, these are all real storylines)? Why not return some of the water and then give ten percent of your produce to the orphanage? Yes, forgiveness is a good message, but really, they don't even take CRB checks! When the children of today are in charge of the country, there'll be all sorts of unscrupulous deviants in charge of the orphans.

Irie, man!


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