Peppa Pig, popular in over 170 nations, has conquered the market of children’s entertainment, becoming a billion-dollar business. Most won’t think there’s anything wrong with the cartoon and, certainly, not one to get banned. But in China, the short cartoons about the pig and her family have been banned from Douyin, a Chinese video platform. In the UK where the cartoon originates, this ban has even been ridiculed.
However, China has its reasons for the ban. One of the main reasons for pulling it off the platform is the rise of a “gangster” subculture. Internet users began to use the character’s image as a sign of rebellion against the Chinese establishment. Subversive memes, videos, and music videos using the Peppa Pig characters began to circulate on the Internet and some even had sexual connotations. Pornography is strictly banned in China, and with Peppa Pig’s memes or videos touching upon that territory, it’s sure to grab the Chinese government’s attention.
Peppa’s rude behavior toward her friend, Suzy Sheep, has also been called out as fake friendship. Additionally, many lines from the show have been taken out of context and used to fuel lewd or satirical comments and content. Regardless of the political agenda, a figure that children relate to should not be associated with any of this. With regard to the Peppa Pig subculture, People’s Daily, a state-run editorial, has mentioned that:
“These are elements that are not conducive to the healthy development of cultural industries. No matter how gangster Peppa Pig is, it cannot be allowed to destroy children’s youth and go beyond the rules.”
According to The Global Times, the individuals of this subculture, also known as shehuiren, are considered to be disruptive as they:
“Run counter to the mainstream value and are usually poorly educated with no stable job. They are unruly slackers roaming around and the antithesis of the young generation the Party tries to cultivate.”
The Chinese government is infamous for dictating the content the Chinese can access and view. Earlier, it had also banned Winnie The Pooh, as many had likened the cartoon character to President Xi Jinping. However, when it comes to kids’ entertainment, using the cartoon as a political image could pose a problem for any government.
Haiqing Yu, a Chinese digital media expert, sums up why the Chinese government would be against this cartoon:
“Peppa Pig is supposed to teach kids about the importance of family, which is quite acceptable to the Chinese culture, but the fact that young people have turned it into something associated with a thug or a gangster, that’s totally the opposite of what Xi Jinping has wanted China to be.”
Nevertheless, this isn’t the first time Peppa Pig has had issues with a foreign government. One of its episodes was banned in Australia, as it taught children that spiders are not dangerous. However, in Australia, spiders very well can be. The lesson here is that the cartoon creators need to be aware of the differences in culture and geography, in this case, of different regions, and as a kid’s entertainment and education program, the responsibility is great.
In the U.S. too, parents are concerned about the impact the show could have on their children’s behavior. The show has a lot of cases of severe fat-shaming toward Daddy Pig, and Peppa is also shown to talk back to her parents, throw a temper tantrum often, and always gets away with everything she does, especially when it comes to Daddy Pig. This certainly is not a good sign for young children who learn to behave based on what they watch.