Rage against Rastamouse!

The BBC’s latest children’s TV show has sparked huge controversy amongst black viewers. To say that Rastamouse has caused a stir would be an understatement, writes Davina Hamilton for the Uk’s Voice Online.

The latest children’s programme from the BBC (aired on the Beeb’s pre-school TV channel CBeebies) features a Rastafarian mouse as its protagonist – and, unsurprisingly, many Voice readers have been vocal in their opinions about the crime-fighting, reggae-loving hero.

Inspired by the successful Rastamouse books, penned by Rastafarian writer Michael De Souza and illustrated by Genevieve Webster, the BBC’s TV adaptation has truly divided opinion amongst viewers.

The Voice‘s Facebook page has been bombarded with comments about the programme; some love the show, others have been angered by it.

Here, Voice entertainment editor Davina Hamilton and psychologist Delroy Constantine-Simms put forward the arguments for and against the programme.

*DAVINA HAMILTON*

Verdict on Rastamouse: LOVE IT!

WHILE I’m the first to rage against perpetual negative racial stereotypes on TV, I also believe that sometimes, our fear of how we are depicted can stop us from seeing the bigger picture.

CBeebies has added one – I stress, one – show to its mix that sees a Rastafarian mouse in the lead role. Now, had Rastamouse been the third or fourth cartoon hero to wear a tam (hat), speak with a Caribbean accent and play in a reggae band, I would be the first to be calling for an end to repeated racial stereotypes.

But the fact is, Rastamouse is probably the first children’s hero that ticks all of those boxes, and frankly, I think it’s wonderful that children of Caribbean descent now have a show that embodies elements of the culture from which they come.

The lead character in the BBC kids’ show Jakers! is an Irish pig called Piggley Winks; cartoon character Pepe Le Pew was a French skunk; and BBC children’s show Tinga Tales features a host of animal characters whose accents range from Jamaican, Indian, African and many more. So why is Rastamouse so different?

On the one hand, we want TV shows that reflect the multicultural Britain in which we live, but the minute we get Rastamouse – which, it must be stressed, is an adaptation of a series of books, penned by Rastafarian writer Michael De Souza – some of us complain!

Should Mr De Souza never have penned his books, for fear that black people would be offended?

Should Levi Roots not have been given the opportunity to flex his entrepreneurial muscles with Reggae Reggae sauce because he – a black Rasta man who also plays reggae music – is somehow an embarrassing stereotype of black culture?

Should the classic 1972 film The Harder They Come never have been made because it centred around a Jamaican man who wanted to be a reggae star? Come on, people!

No, we definitely don’t want repeated racial stereotypes. But I think we should applaud Rastamouse – whose mission of ‘making a bad ting good’ is wholly positive – as a first for children’s programming, and use it as an opportunity to encourage the BBC and other broadcasters to create other kids’ programmes and dramas that reflect a variety of elements of black culture.

*DELROY CONSTANTINE-SIMMS*

Verdict on Rastamouse: LOATHE IT!

The airing of Rastamouse by the BBC is nothing more than the covert perpetuation of a negative ideology. It serves to assert the inferiority of Caribbean culture, often perpetrated by financially and disinherited representatives from the targeted group.

In this instance, it is the authors of Rastamouse who have, typically, been enabled to sell their products using the resources of an oppressing ethnic group, in this instance, the European-dominated and controlled BBC.

While Ali G was considered a parody of black stereotypes taken on by other communities, Rastamouse is no better than the new Sambo; golliwog in drag! No other ethnic group in Britain would allow their religion to be represented by a rodent.

Let’s think about it. Can you ever imagine a Jewish person writing a book called Jewie the Crime Fighting Pig? Or a follower of the Hindu faith endorsing a book called Hindi the Crime Fighting Cow or, worse still, a book from a Muslim writer titled Jihad Jane? It just would not happen. 

Rastafarianism is usually represented by a lion or royalty, but for some reason, the misguided author chose a rodent.

What I find so shameful is the number of educated black people who have heaped praise on the BBC for providing such an ‘innovative’ children’s programme. Even worse, they are excusing the programme by suggesting that it will somehow aid the process of breaking down racial stereotypes, and also implying that it will provide more opportunities for struggling black authors.  

As far as I am concerned, Rastamouse will reinforce negative stereotypes in the worst possible way. The introduction of the programme has given children more playground fodder to indoctrinate them into thinking that people with Caribbean accents, and Rastafarianism as a whole is something to be mocked. Worse still, it has given the intellectual racist more ammunition to attack us.

Before you know it, they’ll have Rastamouse singing one of Bob Marley’s songs – and at this point, I suppose we must applaud. Forget it. I’m a TV license payer and I don’t need my money being spent in this way.

We are constantly crying out for positive programming regarding black people and the BBC has responded by giving us Rastamouse.

As far as I’m concerned, the psychological trap has been set and in this instance, the airing of this show is the bait that has been offered to appease us and keep us trapped in a state of perpetual ignorance through entertainment. And it seems to work every time.

Once again, we ask for cake but sadly, we are grateful when we get the crumbs.

For the original report go to http://www.voice-online.co.uk/content.php?show=18933

2 thoughts on “Rage against Rastamouse!

  1. Firstly if you are rastafarian do you have any connection to mouses (i think not) unlike “Hindi the crime fighting cow” because cow’s have a definite link to Hinduism and the mouse doesn’t, please correct me if i’m wrong. So the wrongly and over-exaggerated point their has not at all touched upon the points of Rastamouse. Secondly you are correct in saying that a mouse is a rodent but why is this a bad thing? Actually although rodent (rodentia) is described as something bad it is just a sub-section of mammal. unlike the canidae family which contain nothing more harmless than dogs in it!

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