'Rastamouse': A genuine TV revolution

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© BBC
Posted: Mon Feb 21 2011

Christ, kids are impressionable. You make up a little white lie to get them off your back, and before you know it, they're fighting with other kids in the playground, screaming 'Drinking loads of booze IS good for you. My uncle Alexi SAID SO'.

So we should never underestimate the power of kids's TV. Without 'Blue Peter' deploying us to rummage in bins for aluminium cans, would society now be so obsessed with environmentalism? Personally, I suspect I'd be chomping on hummingbird goujons and listening to Jeremy Clarkson audio tapes as I helicopter to the all-night garage for more used tyres to burn.

So CBeebie's 'Rastamouse' could be the most culturally revolutionary TV programme ever. Yes, you could get distracted by the comedy inherent in a Rastafari reggae star cum crime buster. Or that the nation's stoners are getting all giggly over the possibility that Rastamouse's love of 'cheese' is a cunning code for 'ganja'. But it's worth pointing out that: a) Seeing as cheese is actually a kind of weed, this wouldn't be a particularly ingenious code. B) Stoners will read drug messages into ANYTHING. So ignore all this nonsense.

Because 'Rastamouse' is deep stuff. Below the talk of 'nuff ruff riddims' and 'boomBASTIC' parties lies a revolutionary thesis about our penal system. As a sunny, peace-loving rastafari, Rastamouse's crime-fighting motto is 'Make a bad t'ing good'. So rather than inflict retribution on perps, he gets them to offer their victims reparation. When he finds the 't'eef', he takes time to understand what led them to commit crime, and then socially re-enfranchises them by helping them do good for the community. It's like a less watered down version of Ken Clarke's prison reforms. Enough of our kids watching this, and in a couple of decades, the flog-'em-and-hang-'em, Daily Mail approach to crime could be over.

Even better, it's a radical departure from the white, liberal middle class bias of BBC kids's shows. 'Charlie and Lola' are the precocious spawn of Stoke Newington, weaned on Fresh And Wild baby superfood. 'Postman Pat' is as useful in 21st century multicultural Britain as a copy of the Corn Laws for the kiddies's bedtime reading. The disturbingly dreamlike parochialism of Balamory is like a James Herriot on-acid emulator. 'Rastamouse', however, sounds like you're listening to the Rinse FM kids' show. There's a President who says things like 'Dat plan dere sound propah!'. Characters greet each other with 'Bredrin' and 'Wa' gwan'. 'Swear down' is used to stress earnestness. There's even an episode about a pirate radio station. Yes, this is nominally based around Rastafari culture, but it also taps into the dialect of London's Afro-Carribean population. It's the way British urban youth speak. Put simply, the voices of these mice are the sound of a largely disenfranchised section of society.

And that's why this show is so powerful. It's one of the most socially inclusive pieces of kids's TV ever. It gives a voice to kids from previously unenfranchised parts of society and paints a picture for all of us where understanding each other takes priority over conflict and subjugation. It's like nothing kids TV has done before. Hopefully it'll have as much impact as 'Blue Peter'.

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