Wednesday, 5 January 2011

The Winnie the Pooh effect

I was watching Shaun the Sheep the other day.  For the uninitiated, Shaun the Sheep is a kids animation - a spin off from the Wallace and Gromit animation ‘A Close Shave’ – if you have no idea what I’m talking about then look them up, you won’t regret it.  Shaun the Sheep is set on an English farm, and basically tells of the comic exploits of a bunch of sheep, led by the titular Shaun.

However, during this light hearted picture of English rural life, I saw something that disturbed me.  I’m not usually disturbed by such shows, but on this occasion it happened.  It was to do with money, and it was an example of what I’ve decided to call ‘the Winnie the Pooh effect’.

During this particular episode, the farmer (who incidentally is blissfully unaware of the adventures being had by the farm’s ovine inhabitants) had some money.  With dollar signs on it.  Now, I realise that this may not shock you.  I realise that you may wonder why on earth such a thing would disturb me.  Let me tell you why.

The Winnie the Pooh effect is the mechanism by which England is voluntarily losing its own culture.  England in the 21st Century is suffering from a bad case of “we’ll-abandon-our-own-culture-apologetically-in-case-it-happens-to-offend-or-confuse-somebody-else-itis.  Shaun the Sheep is a thoroughly English animation - the series is the brainchild of an Englishman, the programme is made by an English TV company, and it is undoubtedly set in England’s green and pleasant land.  So why can our currency also not feature?

My point here is not to be some ultra-nationalist ranter, but why can we not simply show a pound sign in the show?  Apparently, the producers wanted to make sure that the money symbol would be understood by people in other countries.  Has England has fallen so far from grace that a pound sign is no longer recognisable across the world?  Anyone watching Shaun the Sheep in France, Thailand, Columbia or wherever will now no doubt believe that the fun, family cartoon that they are watching is an American one.

So why call it the Winnie the Pooh effect?  Simply due to the fact that because the evil Disney Corporation has created a monopoly on the image of the loveable English bear, everybody in the entire world believes that it is an American creation.  Winnie the Pooh is a symbol of how little pieces of English culture are being lost or hidden.  The real kicker though is that it’s our own fault.  Nobody stole our cultural identity away from us – we are voluntarily killing it to make sure we don’t offend anybody.  What other country in the world would ever do that to itself?

How many kids in the world recognise the bear on the left?

Maybe I’m getting carried away.  Maybe its just a symbol in a cartoon and I really shouldn’t care.  Maybe it doesn’t matter where some kid in Brazil thinks a cartoon was made - I'm pretty sure the kid won't really care.  But in a world that seems to want to kick you when you’re down, maybe a little recognition for the things we still can do well wouldn’t hurt either.

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