I mean, I looked at the new Facebook reactions. But there’s no button for ‘Meh’, and that’s the one I was really hoping for.
Well, along with these.
All right, here’s how it normally goes.
Complaining parent: I have just been watching Bing with my child. I object strenuously to the language. He talks nonsense and nobody corrects him!
Me: Well, Bing is supposed to be three. He’s still learning language. The adults do correct them, but they do it by example. If they made a show that was entirely about fixing grammatical errors, it would be mind-numbingly tedious. Plus if they all spoke perfect English it would just grate. I’ve seen shows that do that, and they’re tortuous to watch.
Complaining parent: Children are just going to pick up bad habits, though. It’s CBeebies’ job to give them role models.
Me: Not as such. It’s CBeebies’ job to entertain and educate. It does that by presenting realistic, rounded characters. We could argue back and forth about Bing – certainly Flop is far too patient to be even remotely plausible – but the use of language _is_ comparatively realistic.
Whining parent-who-is-probably-friends-with thread originator: Dinopaws is another one. “Thunk”. THAT’S NOT A REAL WORD!
Me: Dinopaws plays with language. The world is very new, remember? They’re trying things out, and part of that is the formulation of language, when applied to things they discover. That’s why they make up words occasionally.
Whining parent: I’m not having my children use made-up words.
Me: So presumably you won’t allow them to read Spike Milligan or Lewis Carroll, then? Or Shakespeare, who supposedly invented half the words in the dictionary?
Complaining parent: Well, it’s all very well, but children are like sponges. They learn from the TV.
Me: They really don’t. Before Bing, it was In The Night Garden. It goes right back to Bill and Ben. A generation has been exposed to Teletubbies and it hasn’t done them any harm.
Illiterate parent: i disagree i seen wot kids are sayin and they dont no how to talk proper and its not right, i thought Cbeebies was there to educate are children but thats just my opinion
Me: [considers re-evaluating previous statement]
Complaining parent: Well, there are children whose parents don’t speak to them enough and just let them watch telly all day and their children will pick up bad habits.
Me: Then they’re bad parents. And that’s something for which the BBC cannot and should not be held accountable.
Complaining parent: All the same, I don’t want my children exposed to language like this. I don’t think these shows should be on TV.
Me: So don’t watch. No one has a gun to your head. But these programmes are very popular and while I can’t exactly quantify the educational benefits, I don’t think they’re detrimental to language development.
Complaining parent: I disagree. I think they should be removed and CBeebies should be more responsible.
Me: CBeebies is more responsible than you realise. They don’t just turn up in a studio and make stuff. This is all researched, argued and discussed all the way up.
Complaining parent: Well, it’s just my opinion. I have a right to state my opinion.
Me: Yes, and I have a right to disagree with you if I see fit.
Complaining parent: Go away. It’s none of your business.
Me: You made it my business when you posted this in a public forum. If you’re that cross about this, send a private message to the BBC. If you’re going to post things on the internet, you have to accept the consequences: people are going to talk back.
Complaining parent: [deletes thread]
I’ve lost count. I mean it. I sometimes feel I ought to feed these stock phrases into a computer, like they do with children’s school reports, and print out standard responses to save me constantly having to type the same thing over and over. It’s not that the language thing is a majority viewpoint. It’s just that the ones who find it an issue see it as their moral duty to tell the people who made the programme what they’ve heard a hundred times before and don’t care about anyway, and unfortunately I see it as my duty to tell them where they’re going wrong. And so on and so on. It’s Forth Bridge territory (that’s the Forth Bridge as it used to be, before they got that shiny paint that lasts for decades). The worst thing is that such discussions nearly always seem to deteriorate into a slanging match – or, if you want to rework that Beach Boys / Crystals song:
I got into an argument on Facebook just the other day
Disagreed with someone who kept telling me to go away
She asked me why I did engage
I said it was a public page
She fell into a sweary rage
And then she blocked me.
Why do I continue to have this argument? Well, the BBC gets enough flak and is subjected to constant bashing from people who want it to be a bespoke organisation tailored to their own particular needs, and can’t (or won’t) understand why this can never happen. But I wrote an entire paragraph about learning from my own mistakes and wanting to inspire others, and then deleted it – because the inconvenient truth (and I’ve never shied away from this) is that, rather like C.S. Lewis, I like a good fight. Who doesn’t? And who doesn’t want to win and relish in winning? Some days I feel as if I’ve won a victory for common sense and rationality. Other times, after getting blocked by Stacey from Gillingham and threatened by her knuckle-dragging boyfriend, I feel like I’m punching below my weight, and I hate myself.
I didn’t want this to turn into a navel-gazing exercise, so we will abandon the introspection. For the curious, here are some facts:
– There is no BBC-led conspiracy to dumb down your children.
– If you really think an authentic portrayal of developing language is going to harm your children, you need to get out more.
– If you don’t like the gibberish, tough. You’re not the intended audience.
– “Please, won’t somebody think of the parents?” is the world’s worst campaign slogan.
That last one seems to be prevalent in abundance whenever the BBC bring back a supposedly annoying show – which happened late last year during the Teletubbies resurrection. “NOOOO!” was the standard response. “Can’t stand the annoying things, stunting our children’s development” – the sort of statement that shows they’d not only missed the point, they’d not even noticed the point is there: the point is a dot on the horizon, hidden behind one of those hills populated by a CG windmill, a suspiciously plump Dipsy and a nervous-looking rabbit.
“I hope,” said one particular person, who shall remain anonymous because I can’t be arsed trawling through the archives to find her, “that you will listen to these complaints about the new series of Teletubbies and not actually broadcast it. Because no one wants to see this rubbish.” Someone really should tell my two-year-old, who watches every episode of this rubbish with an unbridled sense of joy. The dancing, the repeated language, the colourful enthusiasm – it’s all tailor-made for his age group, and he knows it. I know it. There’s always the risk that he’s picking up bad habits, so the other day I tested him by singing the theme song.
Me: Tinky Winky…
Of course, once the series actually aired the complaints died a sudden death, presumably because all the affronted parents had either seen the error of their ways or simply switched over to Milkshake, where you can endure the formerly great series that is Thomas and Friends and cultivate a sense of consumer greed and gender labelling in your children during those appalling ad breaks. In the end, the only things that made me seriously cross in the new series of Teletubbies were some of the cosmetic changes – the fact that the fabulous foursome now have to ask before doing big hugs (an adjustment that’s presumably wrapped up in the consent debacle), along with the freshly-painted Noo Noo, and the needless redecoration of the Home Dome.
There are always new parents on the CBeebies Facebook page, and always new people to be reassured, but back in November, after a hundred or so of these conversations, I’d had enough. There had to be a better way to get rid of some of the angst, and it turned out to be satire. You may cast the blame squarely at daytime TV, and the sort of heart-rending commercials that saturate ad breaks in between Judge Judy and the Come Dine With Me marathons. Adopt a snow leopard? Check. Heart disease? Yup, got it. Jean and his filthy water, gazing solemnly into the camera as the flies buzz around him? Oh, you’ve seen that one, haven’t you? I wouldn’t trade places with that poor kid for all the coffee in Brazil, but the cynic in me notes with appreciation how the emotional content of such campaigns is milked for maximum tissue effect. For better or worse there is a formula to these things, and if nothing else, I think I grasped it here.
I will spare you most of the production details. It was a troubled shoot, because one child wasn’t being particularly cooperative, although I managed to get some usable footage. Music was a public domain piece I found on YouTube and narration came courtesy of the splendid David Winstanley, whom some of you may remember from that spoof Public Information Film I did a while back about the dangers of playing in quarries. Most of my friends seemed to get the joke immediately, undoubtedly thanks to my Facebook arguments clogging up their timeline. But somewhat predictably, there were a good number of people who completely missed the satire. “You’ve written ‘biggerer’ at the end,” said one person. “Doesn’t that undermine your point?”
Then there’s Ian Bellis, whose YouTube comment deserves reproducing more or less in full. “I think it is time Cbeebies got took off BBC,” he says, “because it is doing those things to the children out there. Also there is a inappropriate TV show on there. Get well soon. It is because of a silly doctor named Doctor Ranj and he is talking about Wee, Poo and they dancing about being sick and singing too! Nobody wants to dance or sing when they are poorly! CBBC is more better! Chuggington is one annoying TV show, where trains jump up and down and turn quickly around bends. Nobody wants to ride on a Chuggington train! The only shows on Cbeebies which don’t affect your speech and make you learn about stuff is Go Jetters and Topsy and Tim! Cbeebies should not make shows that affect speeches and don’t make you grow up like a baby!”
If it’s meant to be ironic, he does a darn good job and he has yet to admit that he was joking. Either way, it’s a prime example of the principle “that, without a clear indicator of the author’s intent, parodies of extreme views will be mistaken by some readers or viewers for sincere expressions of the parodied views”- or, to give it its proper name, Poe’s law, after Nathan Poe, as opposed to Edgar Allan.
Many years ago, I used to buy The Sun.
I’m not proud of it. But it was that time in my life that I did hospital radio. Little snippets from The Sun were perfect for a Saturday morning request show, particularly when you combined them with stories from The Weekly World News and challenged your listeners to work out which was real and which wasn’t. I collected requests from the orthopedic wards, which meant a juxtaposition of lonely pensioners and beardy, tattooed bikers. My musical selection was thus an uneasy combination of Val Doonican and Meat Loaf. That was fine. The news stories helped with the flow.
The Sun and I had a falling out back when the Sarah Payne story broke and they did something that I won’t go into, but which made me discard the filthy rag permanently. It was something of a wrench, because I’d grown quite addicted to Deirdre’s Photo Casebook, in which agony aunt Deirdre Sanders would deal with the likes of serial adultery, gambling addiction and problem teenagers through the heady medium of captioned photo stories, told in daily installments, three or four photos per episode, with at least one panel featuring a girl in her underwear. Deirdre’s ‘advice’ would feature on the final day. There were five strips a story. Literally. Look, it’s easier to just show you.
And so on.
Why am I telling you this? Well, cast your mind back to ‘The Caretaker‘. Series eight threw us its fair share of curve balls, but while I never wanted to throw things at the TV during this one (which is not something I could say for ‘Death In Heaven’) it struck me that I didn’t like the way in which the relationship between the Doctor and Clara had progressed. The Doctor’s physical ageing had presumably rendered any question of a love story distinctly icky, and the only possible solution, it seemed to the writers, was to turn him into a stern father figure. It’s something Moffat dealt with last year when Capaldi lightened up, and whatever mistakes the show made during Clara’s swansong stories (not to mention, of course, the tedious death-and-resurrection narrative arc) her relationship with the Doctor was, if nothing else, far more fun to watch, at least when they weren’t getting angsty about unravelling the web of time.
But in the meantime, I’d done this. And eighteen months later, I appear to have finished it.
But you don’t get the whole lot at once, of course. You can darn well wait. I will upload an image per day over the next week, and you can see the story unfold at its author’s intended pace. Bonus points for anyone who can spot which episodes each panel is from. It’ll be something nice and not at all cynical for Valentine’s weekend, from your not at all cynical author (who is, I should emphasise, not at all single).
And no, Jenna Coleman doesn’t get her kit off. But keep reading. Someone else might.
Today in Brian of Morbius: Autons get broody.
There is trouble afoot on the set of ‘Logopolis’.
And chaos ensues during the Dalek Star Wars marathon.
Author’s note: this is an old post from a different blog that’s now privacy-controlled. It goes in here because…well, because it goes in here.
A couple of years ago, my friend Rachel posted about The Lion King. Her alternate ending is frankly wonderful, if nothing else because it finally explains exactly why Simba feels responsible for the death of Mufasa – he thought he’d started the wildebeest stampede. And yes, I know you knew that, but I didn’t. And yes, that’s monumentally thick. I’d missed the woods for the trees. Decades of watching that over and over, learning the songs (and even the orchestrations) by heart, and I’d never even noticed. I just thought Simba blamed himself because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Missing the obvious has always been one of my character flaws.
Anyway, this set me thinking, and I’d like to talk today about The Wizard of Oz – a film we watched just the other week, at Daniel’s insistence, and a film which, while I know it more or less off-by-heart, has always bothered me. It’s only partly to do with Wicked– which, as you may be aware, will completely change the way you look at The Wizard of Oz, and which neatly solves the mystery of why a witch with a chronic allergy to H2O would keep a bucket of water in the middle of a walkway where someone could easily trip over it (never mind the melting, what about slippery floors?). No, it’s the ending of Oz that I’ve never really understood. And rather than explain why in a load of preamble, we will instead jump straight into The Emerald City, just after the Wizard has sailed off in his balloon. Cue Glinda.
Dorothy: Will you help me? Can you help me?
Glinda: You don’t need to be helped any longer. You’ve always had the power to go back to Kansas.
Dorothy: I have?
Scarecrow: Then why didn’t you tell her before?
Glinda: Because she wouldn’t have believed me. She had to learn it for herself.
Dorothy: Hold on. What the hell?
Glinda: I’m sorry?
Dorothy: [hesitantly, but with growing menace] You…knew…all this time…that I could get back…by myself. Without you. And you…didn’t…tell me.
Glinda: You wouldn’t have believed me.
Dorothy: You didn’t even try!
Glinda: Well, no, because it was your journey that was important. You didn’t really want to go back at first, did you? You wanted the adventure.
Dorothy: No I didn’t! What, you’re going to give me some sort of Joni Mitchell shit about how I couldn’t appreciate home until I had to leave it?
Glinda: Yes, but –
Dorothy: The cyclone taught me that, Glinda. The cyclone. All I could think of up there was Kansas. I was borderline concussed. I experienced levels of nausea that I don’t think have been scientifically documented. Then I landed in Midget central and I just wanted to go home again. And instead of helping, you let me go through hell to get this far. I had apples thrown at me. I was drugged. The monkeys carried me by my hair!
Glinda: My dear, I’m so sorry. But you see, you had to go through that to realise –
Dorothy: TO REALISE WHAT? To realise that you’re a horrible person? Jesus, you’re worse than the witch. And she wanted to cook my dog!
Glinda: But you defeated her. As I knew you would. And now you’re safe and sound, and you can leave these fictional constructs behind.
Scarecrow: Hold on, hold on there. Just a minute. I’m a construct?
Glinda: Why, of course you are. When Dorothy wakes up she’ll be back in her farmhouse in Kansas and no one will believe this will have happened. She’ll have years of therapy which will bankrupt her aunt and uncle, but think of the book deals!
Tin Man: But we’re real!
Glinda: No, you’re doppelgangers. You look like people she knows, but you’re a figment of her imagination. You’re the farmhands. Although here you’re the parent figures she doesn’t feel she has in her Aunt and Uncle. Except for the Lion, who appeals to her maternal instincts.
Scarecrow: So Oz isn’t real?
Glinda: Probably not.
Lion: Gee. This didn’t happen in the book.
Dorothy: It doesn’t?
Scarecrow: No, in the book you unambiguously go to and return from Oz. Eventually you ship your family out there. This ending’s only minimally ambiguous.
Tin Man: The weird part is, I don’t think anyone’s gonna care about such a colossal change.
Scarecrow: The film has basically usurped the popularity of its source material. The songs, the quotes, the costumes – they’ll last for decades. It means this catastrophic deviation will be held in far less contempt than the changes in, say, Lord of the Rings. Oh joy, this placebo brain is wonderful!
Dorothy: And the witch? I suppose you’re going to tell me she’s Miss Gulch, aren’t you?
Glinda: Absolutely right, my dear.
Dorothy: Who will still kill my dog?
Dorothy: Oh, fuck this shit.
[She socks Glinda on the jaw.]
Dorothy: Well, so long, imaginary friends.
[She starts to fade from view.]
Dorothy: Oh, Glinda – one more thing. Is this really happening in my head, or is it real?
Glinda: Of course it’s happening inside your head,
Harry Dorothy. But why on earth should that mean it isn’t real?