Thursday, September 02, 2004

Beatrix Potter: Stalinist?

My son, the Dude (aged 2) has taken to cute, British, self-involved, talking animals in a big way. He is going through a bit of a Beatrix Potter phase. But it’s only when you’ve seen a Beatrix Potter cartoon (yes, I know Potter also comes in the alternative interactive BOOK format but DVDs buy temporary quiet) for the 88th time that you really begun to notice how weird Potter’s creations are.

The Dude has been switched on of late by the most prominent porcine character in Potter’s stable, the interestingly named Pigling Bland. (PB’s brother, a fun-loving but irresponsible scally-wag, is simply called Alexander. Talk about one child being favoured over the other.)

Anway, young Master Bland and Alexander set off for market, some miles away on their first trip out off the farm, in order to purchase some groceries (to be honest, I’m always a bit hazy on the complete narrative progression of these stories because I dip in and out so often). I did wonder whether old Mrs Pig was not in fact sending her sons off to be slaughtered. Because they certainly didn’t make the grade as shoppers…

Anyway, Mrs Pig (not sure if that’s her real name) tells them to make sure they do their job properly because she’s gone to a lot of trouble to get their ‘licences’. To cut a really quite brief story even shorter, the brothers are stopped by a police officer while walking to the market. He asks to see their licences; Pigling Bland has his but Alexander lost his by being an irresponsible scally-wag. Seeing as Alexander is licenceless, the police officer escorts Alexander back to the farm leaving Master Bland to face his beige destiny alone.

So it’s come to this, has it? Pigs need a licence from their local police station to travel 5 miles to the nearest market town. Never mind Orwell’s Animal Farm (where the pigs did quite nicely, thank you very much), I’m beginning to suspect that Mrs Potter may have orginated the internal passport systems used to great repressive effect in apartheid-era South Africa and the Soviet Union. As well as creating some lovable characters, did she also design the blue-print for a massive apparatus of state oppression?

Wow, did the English invent everything?

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