Monday, February 14, 2011

Rastamouse: the bloodclart blacklash begins

It's only been a couple of days since we covered the mighty Rastamouse on this blog and, frankly, that is too long. As predicted here, there have been accusations that the programme encourages young children to use grievous grammar and patchy patois (admittedly, it was the Daily Telegraph that reported this, not the Daily Mail, but just wait...I wouldn't be too surprised if the Daily Star linked Rastamouse to an alleged plot to kill the EDL leader next week).

The other accusation seems to be that the programme stereotypes Jamaicans and the Jamaican English variety - some claiming that it will lead to racism because (wait for it) white kids will start talking in Rastamouse patois and get beaten up by actual Rastafarians. No, really.

While that argument strikes me as almost completely deranged (and full of stereotypes of its own e.g. that black people have such gigantic chips on their shoulder that they will respond aggressively to any perceived slight) the argument about stereotypes and mockery is more serious and probably needs to be looked at a bit more closely than just dismissing it out of hand.

So, what do you think? If you've seen Rastamouse, do you think the programme mocks Jamaican patois? Or instead is it celebrating the language? Vote now in the poll on the right.

What's really depressing is to see some of the comments added by readers of the Telegraph piece, some of whom seem to genuinely feel that by having Rastamouse on TV British values (whatever those might be) are being undermined. Some of them honestly believe that Rastamouse is part of a liberal conspiracy to impose multiculturalism on an unwilling population. I've got to stop reading and responding to these loons!


Anonymous said...

Different people say different things why they dont like Rastamouse but I believe that Caribbeans and non Caribbeans have two different reasons for not liking it. Non Caribbeans may feel that the so called 'Jamaican accent' used in Rastamouse will teach children to grammatically incorrect English which is a valid argument no matter how great the programme is. As a Caribbean person it feels insulting to describe the language used in Rastamouse as Jamaican Patois. IT CLEARLY IS NOT! Non Caribbeans unless they have spent a sufficient amount of time around Caribbeans do not understand Caribbean Patois especially Jamaican. I have Grenadan friends who joked with me how they could not understand Jamaican Patois. If Rastamouse used typical Jamaican Patois 99.9% of the viewers wouldn't understand so it is a mockery to describe what sounds as an English man trying to mimic a Caribbean beach boys accent as Jamaican. The fact that Reggie Yates the voice of Rasta mouse only supports the Caribbean arguement further. He cannot do a Caribbean accent he has no cultural reference. Thus Rastamouse may be a Rasta Mouse but he is not Caribbean.

Dan said...

I take your point about different reasons, and think there's something to be said for your argument about the show not using genuine patois. It is a kids' show, after all and loads of TV shows and films use loose approximations of regional accents and dialects to signal authenticity.

The Wire was always hailed as a great one for echoing the street talk of Baltimore, for example (and was, of course, a TV masterpiece) but some of its main actors were British - Stringer, McNulty - or not actually from the area itself - Freamon, Omar - so while it sounded good to an outsider, it wasn't necessarily the real deal. Perhaps the same is true for Rastamouse on a very different level.

I don't really buy the "incorrect grammar influences our kids" argument though. Did Teletubbies make my kids talk like chubby chaps in romper suits? Not really. And Rastamouse is about as likely to make them start saying "irie" and "wagwan" as Teletubbies made them say "eh-oh" i.e. not very.

Aoife Strahan said...

I have three younger siblings and they all love Rastamouse. I've sat with them and watched it before, and I think it's a great way to start culturally educating children from an early age. What's the harm in showing them the different ways in which people use the English language? As for the 'negative' influence that some claim it has on children, surely programmes such as 'In the Night Garden' (where the characters tend to make noises as opposed to using words) are more detrimental? The simple solution appears to be - if you have such a problem with programmes like these, don't sit your child down to watch them!

Dan said...

Exactly! I can't help thinking that if it was an Eton-educated hamster rather than a Jamaican mouse, there'd be fewer complaints, but some people just object because they see anything non-standard as wrong.

I watch it more than my kids though, it has to be said...