Last year there was a brief, blissful period during which my sons permitted me to play Cure CDs in the car. They were especially fond of “Why can’t I be you?”, which was apt, given that:
- that was precisely the kind of pseudo-philosophical, unanswerable question they were into asking at that time, and
- we were having real issues with personal pronoun usage that summer.
Every day my eldest and I would have at least one conversation along these lines:
Can I have a biscuit?
Of course you can have a biscuit.
But I want a biscuit, not you!
But that’s what I said! Look, when I say “you”, from your perspective that means “I”, and when you say “you”, from your perspective that means “me”.
Waaah! Want biscuit!
etc. etc. etc.
Anyhow, we’re past that now. Just as we’re past listening to Robert Smith on interminable journeys up to visit grandparents. Oh yes, now we’re back to listening to “children’s CDs” again, and, like many other things, it’s driving me insane.
This week (and last week, and the one before that) it’s been the audio CD version of Harry and his Bucketful of Dinosaurs. We have a set of books that came with accompanying audio, and right now it’s making me yearn for our dodgy old car with the shitty tape player than never worked.* The books are read out by Andrew Sachs – yes, THAT Andrew Sachs, formerly the xenophobe-tastic Manuel in Fawlty Towers, now a national treasure due to Russel Brand and Jonathan Ross being mean to him in a crank phone call. Actually, I think they were being more mean to Sachs’ granddaughter, Georgina Baillie, but no-one gave a toss about that because in actual fact Brand and Ross were right and she’s just some useless slag. But anyhow, there’s no need for me to be cross with Andrew Sachs over that, especially not when I’m cross with him about something else.
Because children are meant to be reading along with the audio recording, there has to be some indication of when to turn the page. And since these books are about dinosaurs (tenuously), said indication is provided by Mr Sachs suddenly going “raaaaargh!”, very very loudly and very abruptly. Personally I find it quite rude. “Please turn the page” would have done just fine. It actually makes me want to get Sachs’ phone number from Russel and Jonathan, then ring him up, yell “raaaaargh!” down the line before promptly hanging up (which is in fact what Brand and Ross should have done to begin with. It would’ve been something the whole nation could’ve got behind).
Today (and yesterday, and the day before) the favourite story on our CD is called Romp in the Swamp. Yes, I know it sounds like it could be rude. Alas, it isn’t. It’s like a normal Harry and the Dinosaurs, but even more sexist. And then even more sexist than that, because it actually prides itself on being less sexist than it usually is. Aaaargh! (or “raaaaaargh!”, as I should be saying).
As any Harry fans/victims will be aware, Harry has a sister called Sam who is shit, what with her being a girl and not “getting” why a crappy bucket full of plastic dinosaurs is meant to be so fucking ace. On the CD she’s even worse than in the books. She gets her own “I’m shit” jingle. Every time she says or does anything, there’s a sneery “ner-ner-ner-ner-ner!” played in the background on some mid-80s Bontempi. It’s classic (we should introduce this for all things said and done by girls in general. Would save the bother of having to actually tell them how crap they are all the sodding time). Anyhow, Sam isn’t in Romp in the Swamp all that much. This features another girl called Charlie, but having had such a difficult time with Sam and her all-round rubbishness, Harry and his dinosaur chums are justifiably wary.
“Don’t worry,” said Harry. “You get in my bucket. I won’t let anyone else play with my dinosaurs.”
Now obviously this could have been the point at which Romp in the Swamp did in fact get rude (of course, this is only because I’m thinking of what happens whenever I let people in my bucket and allow them to play with my dinosaurs). But anyhow, that’s not what happens in the story. Harry has to go and play with Charlie but he doesn’t want to because she’ll be useless. Only she’s not! Because she’s just like a boy!
I mean, there are limitations. She’s not quite Brandon Teena in Boys Don’t Cry (the first film my partner and I saw together. We were too traumatised to actually get it on for another five months). But Charlie has trucks and tractors, and she plays with a hose pipe, pretending it’s a great big snake (which actually, for anyone who’s read their Heinrich von Kleist, is rather rude, but we’ll let that one go). Harry and Charlie play in the garden, pretending it’s a great big swamp. Charlie is so good she could almost be a boy. Which she’s not, but still, by way of recompense for being an almost-boy, she doesn’t get awarded a mocking jingle for every time she so much as moves. And at the end of the afternoon “everyone did a noisy capture-dance” and Harry and the Dinosaurs agree that they would “definitely” like to play with Charlie another time. Of course, no one asks Charlie what her opinion on the whole thing is. But hey, they don’t need to. She should be fucking honoured.
Should this all annoy me as much as it actually does? Yes, it’s yet another example of promoting “equality” by basically suggesting all qualities associated with boys are the qualities which everyone should aspire to have. But it’s not exactly anything new. Perhaps the “raaaaargh!”s are getting to me? I don’t know. But I’m pissed off, and it’s not just because I’m missing the impassioned squeals of Robert Smith. At least not wholly.
ENDOSAURUS (not my crappy joke. That is in fact how all the Harry stories end. Are you now feeling just as pissed off as me?)
* The old car was last seen at We Buy Any Car in Gloucester, whither it had been towed by the AA after finally giving up the ghost at a roundabout off the M5. The adverts are true. They do indeed buy any car.