If you’ve not had the pleasure of meeting Rastamouse yet, he’s a new crime-fighting mouse (like we need another one of those, eh? Eh?) who has his own series on Cbeebies, starting this week. Here’s the official blurb on what he’s about, from Cbeebies themselves:
Stop-motion series featuring Rastamouse, Scratchy and Zoomer, crime-fighting special agents who solve mysteries and play in a reggae band.
I’ve been mulling it over for a few days now, and my opinion of Rastamouse (or should I say, what little of it I’ve seen so far) has gone through several evolutions… I’m not sure I’ve even formulated my overall opinion yet, but a few things struck me that I thought I’d share – mainly because I’m keen to hear other people’s opinions on it too:
Firstly, I think it’s great that the BBC are once again branching out and sticking their ‘inclusiveness’ hats on by showing a show featuring cultural groups you don’t see as often (if at all) on kids TV. Cbeebies in general do quite a good job of this, along with the excellent efforts they make to be inclusive to people with disabilities. So another ‘inclusive’ program definitely works for me.
The thing that worries me a little, tiny-weeny bit though, is the language used in Rastamouse, and what effect it might have on a young child’s developing language skills. I should clarify that by ‘young’ I don’t mean 4, 5, 6 or even 7 year old kids (the limit of Cbeebies target audience, if the birthday song is to be believed…?) – I mean children my son’s age, of 3 or under.
And by language I don’t mean swearing – I’m assuming there won’t be too much effing-and-jeffing in the Easy Crew… I mean stuff like the following – all lines of dialog from the only episode I’ve seen so far:
“This is cool! But the only ting missing is…me breakfast!”
“Why you always tinking about your stomach, bwoy?”
“You hold de rhythm until me get back”
Now, I want to make VERY clear that I’m not trying to be a grammar nazi, a language snob or – worse still – a racist here. I’m just unsure of whether watching this is going to help my two-year-old son’s rapidly-developing language skills, at such a crucial (pun intended) stage of their development.
I *will* admit that I can be a tiny bit of a grammar snob at times – I can’t stand words like ‘innit’, for instance, and don’t want Robert (my son) to start using them if at all possible. But you can usually be reasonably sure that young children’s TV shows are going to steer a straight course where grammar and language are concerned.
As you can probably tell, I’m wrestling with this one quite a bit, so I’m completely prepared to a) be proven completely wrong, b) realise it’s not actually an issue and relax or c) stop caring. Ha ha! But I’m keen to know what other parents think about this sort of thing. Am I the only one worrying about it? Should I just chillax a bit, grandad? : D Let me know in the comments!
24 thoughts on “Fatherhood²: The trouble with Rastamouse is… not yet clear to me!”
If you are going to advocate the positive images of all people, no matter race, creed, gender, ableness etc, I think you have to accept that this is Rasta language, visit the Carribean, that’s what you here!
I understand where you’re coming from (and I’m not a parent, which may colour my judgement) but… it feels as though this will just be one influence amongst many on your son and no bad way to learn that different people talk differently. nPresumably he will be exposed to many different accents (and their related words/dialects) and come to realise that not everyone speaks like Mummy and Daddy – and that’s okay. Yours will still be the strongest influences on him, but he will be hearing you amongst a range of other voices.
I’m new to the world of kid’s TV, but I would much rather my child to watch rastamouse and learn phrases from him instead of the likes of teletubbies which is just……..stupid noise! Plus, it’s only a 20min show, so I dont think it would have too much influence. Although I do have a nephew who is obsessed with Fireman Sam, and now only says ‘Fire’ in a welsh accent!! It’s very cute and funny, but he’ll grow out of it. I think it would funny if my child greeted me with ‘wa’gwaan’!
I completely with you. The production values look great but as the father of a boy who was a late speaker and at 5 still needs speech therapy this worries me. Cbeebies have previously shown a Canadian cartoon which is dubbed into British English, the Americans dub Thomas into US English (Especially Ringo’s narration) so why do we suddenly subject our children to a dialect of English that is a) among the hardest to understand, so much sk that when Newsnight or Dispatches report from Jamaica they’ll subtitle anyone speaking in Jamaican patois, and b) not representative of one of the many variants of English spoken in the UK? Of course, Jamaicans do live in the UK but their children should be speaking in whatever variant of English is spoken in their part of the UK, not Jamaican English, just like the children of Urdu-speaking pakistanis should be able to speak English. On a less serious note, this otherwise fantastic series does make me wonder whether cheese is being used as an analogy for ganja!
The cheese / Ganja thing had struck me too, and quite a few others if the search terms people are finding this blog via are anything to go by…!
Henry – re your comment “But you can usually be reasonably sure that young childrenu2019s TV shows are going to steer a straight course where grammar and language are concerned”.nnHave you seen Waybaloo, the Telly Tubbies, In the night Garden??? Programmes for little kids have always massacred the english language. I am pretty sure that there aren’t a generateion of kids that can only say “eh-oo” and “time for tubby bye byes”.nnThere has been a lot of research done on Child language development and there is string eveidence that children only really learn languge and syntax when interacting with another human. Children who have little actual human language interaction but who watch loads of TV have poor language skills regardless of what they are watching! nnA developmental Psych friend of mine tells me not to worry a jot about weather the programmes use really language or not! So I sit back and watch Pingu with out a care in the world!nnI would just enjoy Rastamouse and worry not for little Rob’s language acquisition!nClaire
My children will not be watching this rubbish!!
My son is 3 and a half and every time it comes on the TV he screams get it off, get it off and bursts into tears. I have no idea what offends him so much, but we had the same problem with Zing Zillas!
I have just made a complaint with the BBC about this program (Rastamouse – a mouse in a gang, sorry ‘band’, wearing a gold chain!) so please don’t be afraid to protect your children where their development is concerned. When I called I was given a general response and was told, that’s it now thanks for your complaint, bye! I said hang on I haven’t finished yet and escalated this complaint which is my right. I am all for representation but my daughters are taught English in school and not some confusing dialiect that is totally inappropriate for children. I know people from all different cultures and can assure you that even Jamaican people speak differently to what this programme is trying to portray. If you care about your children and don’t want them asking for their food by saying ” I tink it is teatime mom, me want some food” then speak up or go to OFCOM which is where I will be escalating this depending on the response I get from the BBC. Just because the BBC tells you this programme is based on some successful books doesn’t make things right so lets protect our children’s education and bring them up to speak properly, as taught in schools.
I am a little unsure about how good letting my children watch this is, but have felt the same about tellytubbies etc but figure it cant do too much harm. However i DO NOT agree with the cheese – drugs thing. I dont understand the need for this.
I appreciate that that’s what you hear in the Caribbean; likewise, you hear Mongolian in Mongolia, but it doesn’t mean Cbeebies should have Mongolian-speaking characters. Its audience is British….portraying Welsh, Yorkshire, Scottish, and accents of other peoples living here is acceptable …a whole programme in Jamaica patois, not so much so
The creator of Rastamouse is Jamaican, I am sure he sleeps soundly at night. He is probably having a massive laugh all the way to the bank too.
I was excited about it as a woman of West Indian heritage, I giggled at all the patois and slang. Me and my cousins often tease our parents about they way they cuss say aks instead of ask, ting, dat, dem, ra*** etc. My 6 year old seems to like it, however lately it has been bugging me as it always depicts characters having to deal with teefing (thieves stealing). It’s subject matter is soooo stereotype, it may even give the impression that all that goes on in Jamaica or even within any black culture is laziness and robbery. I get vex now my girl has started saying dem, dat etc. Some how she still managed to get 100% in her literacy tests. She has already picked up my lazy London grammar and has dropped her Ts saying baar, shaarp and that is bad enough and probably irreversible.
I’m not bothered about the reference to cheese, I don’t think it’s about drugs, however I do have an issue with any programme that puts out bad English or silly sounds and messes up the English language so badly that a child ends up not learning anything useful from it or ends up not being able to use standard English. I would also include Teletubbies, Waybuloo and Night Garden in that cute but totally useless programming.
I try so hard to distract her from the TV however she loves the entertainment and those ridicoulous but adorable fun lovin’ criminals.
Excellent idea, I might have to implement one of those on here too…
The teachers at my 5 year old daughters school are doing a great job in teaching reading and writing
and grammar also myself and my wife are trying to correct her grammar and I think its wrong to put this stuff on TV aimed at this age group when they learn so much at this age. I am not a racist but I think Rastamouse is as I have not yet seen an episode with any white British speaking characters in it.
Just because all the characters’ accents are Jamaican doesn’t mean it’s racist … white Jamaicans also have Jamaican accents (e.g., the previous two presidents of Jamaica and Miss World 1977 who was also on of Bob Marley’s girlfriends) — the mice are neither black nor white but grey and furry!
If you know anything about the religious role of cannabis (just cannabis, not “drugs” in general) in Rastafarian culture I think the multiple references to cheese in Rastamouse are subtly although still clearly a reference to cannabis.
If you know anything about the religious role of cannabis (just
cannabis, not “drugs” in general) in Rastafarian culture I think the
multiple references to cheese in Rastamouse are subtly although still
clearly a reference to cannabis. It’s not quite up there with the references to LSD on the Magic Roundabout, but it’s still pretty clear.
I’ve actually changed my view on Rastamouse since this post and now agree that if you can have characters in Tellytubbies, Waybalhoo etc making silly noises, you can certainly have characters speaking in Jamaican accents. Any child that mimics the speech will grow out of it in a matter of months, but will possibly appreciate the fact that people have many different accents, as is the case with the characters in Fireman Sam or Postman Pat.
It’s actually a brilliant piece of stop motion animation, of which there is very little left …as a Bagpuss fan (that programme actually gave me nightmares as a child!) you should appreciate this.
Oh lighten up!
Just so you guys know programmes like In the Night Garden and Teletubbies where actually designed to help children develop language skills…so they sound silly but they actually help with learning pronounciation.