Posts Tagged With: donnie darko

It’s a Bing Thing

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If you watch as much CBeebies as I do, the adventures of Bing Bunny can’t have escaped you. Based on Ted Dewan’s children’s books, the series takes a peek into the lives of Bing, a young rabbit who spends his days getting into the sorts of scrapes that toddlers and small children find their way into with ease. Every episode sees the titular bunny face and eventually overcome some sort of problem – whether it’s learning to share, dealing with fear of the dark or apologising after dropping your friend’s shoe down the toilet (yes, really). The episode ends in true 1980s cartoon style (see Masters of the Universe / Inspector Gadget / etc.) with one of those monologues to camera, in which Bing reveals that “In today’s story we learned…” – well, more or less – before Flop joins him on the blue green yellow screen, summing up the tale with the words “Splashing / Sleeping / Myxomatosis. It’s a Bing thing.”

Bing spends a fair amount of time hanging around with friends Pando (a panda with an amusing habit of removing his trousers at every conceivable opportunity), Coco (a larger and somewhat irritating rabbit, reminding me faintly of the Tweenies’ Bella) and Sula, a young elephant. His principal guide on this journey, however, is Flop (voiced by Mark Rylance – more on him next time), a sock puppet half his size and only vaguely rabbit-like in his appearance. This has led to all sorts of sorts of speculation as to the nature of the relationship between the two, including an amusingly tongue-in-cheek theory about biodomes and knitted guardians of a master race that you really ought to read. However, here’s the bottom line for those of you who happen to have stumbled in here because you’ve Googled it: Flop is supposed to be Bing’s carer, not his old man. He’s a sock puppet because he’s a sock puppet, although he resembles Bing in the same way that Amma (Sula’s carer) looks like an elephant. And he’s half the size because children tend to place themselves at the centre of the universe (this is the creator’s insight, not mine), so it’s all too feasible that what we’re seeing is Bing’s interpretation of what Flop looks like, not his actual appearance. (You know, like the scenes in Quantum Leap where a doctor or someone would look down at Sam Beckett and see a man with no legs or a woman about to give birth, rather than Scott Bakula.) I certainly hope Flop’s not that actual size, given that the houses in which the characters live are replete with full-size furniture, suggesting that Bing is destined to grow to be twice the size he is now.

Bing-flop

There are two chief complaints levelled at Bing by well-meaning (but ultimately misguided) parents. One is Pando’s tendency to disrobe, which can be explained away by the simple fact that small children love taking their clothes off. Seriously, you’ve got two boys under five and you didn’t see this coming? You didn’t? Well, come to my house at half past four on a warm weekday afternoon. Nakedness is abundant. The other is Bing’s use of incorrect words – terms like ‘gooderer’ are abundant – but moaning about this is frankly churlish. For one thing the animals speak exactly how real-world children speak – anything else would undermine the sense of naturalism and it’d just sound like those irritating stage school brats on The Green Balloon Club who always parse their sentences correctly –  and even if the kids get things mixed up they learn from the adults, all of whom speak impeccably. For another, teaching correct language is not the responsibility of the BBC, it’s the job of the parents, and at the risk of making huge generalisations I’d suggest that if your child is learning solely from the TV, rather than you, you’re not doing your job properly. For yet another, made-up words and richness of language and – for pity’s sake – HAVING TV CHARACTERS REFLECT REALITY – is abundant throughout this medium. Do these people stare daggers at Elmo because he repeatedly refers to himself (and others) in the third person? Did they whine about the made-up words on Dinopaws or the baby talk on In The Night Garden? (They probably did, so I think it’s a lost cause.)

Anyway, this is all leading to something I’m working on, and which I’ll tell you about next time. Suffice it to say that I’m very keen on exploring the darker side of this wonderful series, particularly Flop. But while you’re waiting, if you ever wondered what Bing and Flop would look like if they’d been dropped into the worlds of Lord of the Rings or Star Trek, you need wonder no more. I confess that I am rather proud of that third image, but I find it unfortunate that I have yet to come up with an inspired idea for a Doctor Who themed one. Still, there’s time. Which is probably also a Bing thing.

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Why are you wearing that stupid man suit?

Yesterday I picked up my car from the garage, after they had fixed the heater. Here’s my World of the Strange moment: the dashboard clock was running six minutes fast when I took it in, but is now running three minutes slow. I therefore conclude that the car has somehow gone back in time. This would account for how they could afford to charge me for two and a half hours’ labour despite the mechanic’s insistence that “the job actually took five”. He wasn’t saving me money, he was actually ripping me off.

The Back to the Future parallels are obvious. But a similarly mundane form of time travel takes place in Donnie Darko, a film I’ve never really understood, building up over a couple of hours to the revelation that the hero has to have a plane fall on him so that he won’t be a total dickwad, and that the spectral rabbit is actually a guy in a Halloween costume. Oh, there’s probably more to it than that, but I couldn’t be bothered to find out. Mulholland Drive made more sense, and that was a David Lynch.

It’s seminal, supposedly, but it’s not one you show to the kids. I’ve even avoided showing them any pictures of the rabbit, which is frankly creepy (pun intended). You can’t wrap them in cotton wool, and a little gradual exposure to scary stuff on a bit by bit basis does no one any harm, but there are limits. I am still dealing with the fallout from Raiders of the Lost Ark, Joshua forever telling me I was an irresponsible parent for showing him the face melting scene. “Most kids,” I countered, “most normal kids, would be telling their friends that their father was really cool for letting them watch a highly unsuitable film WHICH WAS LABELLED AS PARENTAL GUIDANCE.”

This reached a head last weekend when we watched ‘Dragonfire’ – a story that features one of the most bizarre cliffhangers in the history of Doctor Who (more on that in a future installment) and a recreation of the end of Raiders, when Edward Peel’s face melts. It’s mercifully brief, but it scared the pants off me as a kid, and Joshua was hiding his face in his hands, which is more or less what I expected. It wasn’t until a few days later that it came up again.

“Daddy? I know what I want for my birthday.”
“OK…”
“You’ll like it.”
“Is it scientifically plausible?”
“Yes.”
“Does it exist beyond the blueprint stage?”
“Yes.”
“Is it legal?”
“Yes. It’s the thing that man’s using on the wall.”
“You want a wallpaper steamer? What on earth for?”
“I wondered what happened if you held it up against someone’s fa-”
“You are SO NOT HAVING ONE.”

Joshua and I may have enjoyed ‘Dragonfire’, but Edward has seen more episodes of old Doctor Who than the other three put together, despite being only a year old. His current thing is dancing to the theme music, although Edward dances to any music, even if it’s the Mavericks. Still, one might possibly say he’s over-exposed. When I’m not sorting laundry in front of ‘Enlightenment’, I’m clearing up the kitchen to the sounds of Big Finish. There will come a point, I assume, that there is a cognitive shift when he starts to actually understand what he’s looking at, and I will have to switch on Thomas the Tank Engine instead, but until that day, I’m making the most of things.

Edward and I have a self-enforced Doctor Who break every Friday when we visit the local children’s centre. Almost. What else, may I ask, are you supposed to do with glittery Play-Doh?

Play-doh Dalek

“I was just watching some bonus features on the ‘Greatest Show In The Galaxy’ DVD,” said you-know-who, “and saw a rather poor Victoria Wood sketch.  There’s a bad-quality version on YouTube:

“Your Play-Doh,” he concluded, “looks like the monster in the sketch!”

It’s supposed to be a Dalek, but I did it in about a minute and a half in between fishing bits of Play-Doh out of Edward’s mouth. What’s her excuse?

Dodgy-looking monsters are par for the course, of course, when you have next to nothing to invest in the manufacturing process – and when you’re viewing events some thirty or forty years after the fact. It’s very easy to laugh at the bubble wrap sleeping bag monsters in ‘The Ark In Space’, until you remember that bubble wrap was a relatively new thing in 1974, meaning your average ten-year-old wouldn’t have known what they were looking at. Or they did, and they didn’t care. “I get a bit impatient when people say ‘I loved watching Doctor Who because of the shaky sets,'” admits Colin Baker. “No you didn’t, you liar. You watched it because you believed it and you were scared.”

Sometimes a little creative thinking works wonders. The unconvincing monster about to feast upon Romana’s during the sacrifice scene in ‘The Power of Kroll’ is, of course, a man in a suit, and Robert Holmes gets round the obvious shortcomings by having the Doctor reveal him as, indeed, a man in a suit. When a slightly chagrined Romana asks him how he knew, the Doctor shrugs dismissively: “He probably looked more convincing from the front.”

At least there was a bit of variety back when Baker was romping around the universe. These days it’s always the same bloody creatures, irrespective of context.

Anyway, as we returned from the children’s centre the other day we popped into the Co-op along the road, and amidst all the Creme Egg displays I discovered that Bassetts are, rather sensationally, producing Jelly Bunnies for Easter.

So, you know, obviously.

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