Continuing with the different aspects of stereotypes in cartoons, I want to look at a show closer to home: Rastamouse. Hosted on Cbeebies, this stop-motion animated series follows Rastamouse – a Jamaican mouse – and his friends ‘Da Easy Crew’, and has been very popular since it’s release in early 2011, with a range of audiences. The show is somewhat smaller than Disney films collectively and I thought this may make a difference to the interaction between the press, public and themselves. The characters often help solve problems in the community and Rastamouse’s philosophy is “Makin’ a bad ting good!” and from the episodes I’ve watched it seems to work well for everyone. Unfortunately, as with most things, there are some cynics who criticise the show and try to twist some of the subjects to fit their theories, one being that cheese is a reference to cannabis and that the characters make smoking gestures whenever it’s mentioned, which may stem from the fact it has an older ‘accidental’ audience of late teens and 20-somethings. Producer Greg Boardman says that this is definitely not the case:
“We’re aware people have been reading things into it,” laughs Boardman, “but that’s the first I’ve heard about smoking gestures. I promise you, we never intentionally put in innuendo or anything that isn’t age-appropriate. We’re a family brand, we’re on CBeebies and we’re very careful. We can’t make it as cult viewing, even though it may later end up as cult viewing. So while we love that the fact that they’re watching, the students and messageboarders are barking up the wrong tree.”
Quoted from The Guardian’s article on the show: http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/tvandradioblog/2011/feb/15/rastamouse-cbeebies
I think for such a popular and mainstream show which comes under the relegation and standard of the BBC to make such a connection would be foolish and reckless, as the show could be pulled off the air if a theory like this was true. Another issue I found in The Guardian’s article was that “The BBC has received complaints from six viewers that it stereotypes black people. Another 95 have complained about the patois spoken by the animated characters.” I find this former of these statements ridiculous – the show stereotypes Jamaican people, yes, otherwise how would we know that the mice were Jamaican? This relates back to the foundation on which cartoons are built – typical characterisations that the viewer can identify. I feel that the latter statement quoted from the article has more solid ground to stand on, as children are always learning and may pick up bad linguistic habits from the show, however Boardman says it’s part of the whole package the show delivers: the music, colour, rhythm and rhyme of speech all help engage children. I’m sure that if they had varied sources of linguistic influences, children’s pronunciation and language skills would ‘level out’ to an understandable and correct accent.
Rastamouse is a good example of how a show can branch out into other areas – Rastamouse has a big following on Twitter with some celebrity fans, Da Easy Crew has a single out called ‘Ice Popp’, there are many plush toys on sale as well as activity sets, clothes and bags.