Subtitled: In a country where Berlusconi is defined as a politician, and pharmacies sell syringe-like devices to smooth your skin, it was only a matter of time before a cartoon character was used in an essay about the current state of Italian culture.
Sub-subtitled: Italian parents, but mostly mothers I think, are riddled with irrational anxiety which, personally, drives me batty yet makes me look like the oddball.
You know folks, today when I saw the bright and sparkly gold cover of Italian Vanity Fair, I felt a little bit like Charlie finding the golden ticket in his Wonka Bar.
Ok, not really.
But that’s the first thing that comes to mind, now that I reflect on the somewhat atrocious idea of making an entire magazine cover the paper version of shiny gold lamè. The really jarring aspect, however, comes in the form of a little picture of cartoon character Peppa Pig on the bottom of the cover, with the caption “In a lucky charm issue, good news and beautiful people that make us think positive, starting with the girl of the moment, Peppa Pig.”
That’s right: THE GIRL OF THE MOMENT.
No T & A. No Botox lips. No come-hither stare.
I thought I’d get by with just a sarcastic tweet about it, complete with a thinly-veiled reference to flying pigs signifying the sheer ridiculousness and hard-to-believe-ness of seeing even Vanity Fair fall prey to the goddamn cartoon character who is currently ruling my twin 4-year-old daughters’s world, just a smidgen behind the Disney Princesses and Barbie. But then my tweets go to my FB page, and some other FB friends picked up the thread, and I realized, no, the roots of this go deeper than I thought. I must know more.
I suppose I’m just another one of the people that Vanity Fair tsk-tsks in their Shiny Happy People Holding Hands issue, when mentioning those who gave a thumbs down to Peppa on Youtube, acknowledging that she’s not “cynical, conspiratorial, and sarcastic.” [read: like the thumbs-downers clearly are] You see, I went online and checked out their lighthearted justification. Allow me to share my hopefully not too cynical, conspiratorial, and sarcastic comments.
Journalist Massimo Gramellini delves into the world of PP to discover why the hell she’s basically ubiquitous in Italy right now. He doesn’t have kids, so he asks some of his journalist colleagues who are fathers. One of them says: “She’s calming.” With this, Gramellini parallels our need for normality and mirth with the ending of every Peppa episode, in which the entire family inevitably falls on their backs laughing uncontrollably. (Frankly, I see this as a warning sign of unmonitored use of controlled substances; but, that would be for the National Enquirer Peppa exposè, after she’s no longer a child star and has had a mug shot or two).
This was my favorite commentary on the current state of affairs here in Italy vis-a-vis Peppa Pig:
Ma negli ultimi anni, complice la classe politica più ferocemente incapace e corrotta dell’emisfero occidentale, ci siamo ubriacati di schifezze e ne portiamo addosso le tracce: sfiducia, rancore, rassegnazione. Ora, la Peppa non sarà la soluzione del problema. Però.
But in recent years, as an accomplice to the most ferociously incompetent and corrupt political class in the Western hemisphere, we’ve gotten drunk on junk, and we’re wearing the traces of it: mistrust, resentment, resignation. Now, Peppa isn’t the solution to the problem. But still…
See, people? This is how desperate we are over here. Things are so in the shitter that we have to turn to a pink, poorly-drawn cartoon pig to soothe our unbridled sense of desperation.
Another of the Gramellini Peppa Philosophy observations, and it’s a beaut:
Rotolare nelle pozzanghere diventa un gesto liberatorio e addirittura rivoluzionario per i bambini che lo guardano in tv, abituati a vivere sotto una campana di vetro da mamme e papà apprensivi che li vaccinano contro ogni bacillo e trasformano la sbucciatura di un ginocchio in un evento ferale.
Rolling around in mud puddles becomes an act of liberation, even a revolutionary act, for children watching it on TV, used to living under a bell jar by worrisome mothers and fathers who vaccinate them against every bacillus and transform a scraped knee into a fatal event.
Yes, if you’ll indulge me in a moment of blatant cultural generalizing, I will say that I have noticed a stark difference between the parenting approaches of my American and British friends who are mothers, as opposed to my Italian friends who have children. Namely: the Italian moms are like live wires, short circuiting with every cough, sneeze, or bite of food that their child takes. I have literally witnessed an Italian mom friend of mine chase her son around the living room cajoling (Yes! There was honest-to-God cajoling going on) and coaxing him to take one more bite of his food. On the flip side, I often get sideways glances when I’m in short sleeves on an unseasonably warm day in March, and my 5-year-old son has been known to ask me to put a long sleeved shirt on him just because “All the other kids are wearing them still.” HAH! Well. Wear one short sleeve and one long one on the same shirt, bucko, because you’re half AMERICAN! We don’t take our temperatures every 5 seconds, goddamit! We suck it up and go to work! (Inserts tongue in cheek. Don’t send me nasty comments. I do this for free for my own personal amusement and that of my loyal readers who are equally amused, and I am not an ethnocentric, bitter-hearted ice queen. Promise. I just like to poke a little fun is all. But, I do staunchly refuse to succumb to the obsession with “the fever” that runs rampant in this country.)
Yes, Italian parenting style is a post for yet another day. Peppa, however, remains the “girl of the moment” on the cover of an Italian weekly with a readership of 1,381,000.
On the one hand, I’m relieved it’s not a naked sexpot. On the other, I’m a bit worried that our existential quest for happiness apparently now rests in the hands of a family of jolly swine, snorting the day away.
Yes, they do an awful lot of that, come to think of it. And all that ROTFL? There might be a connection here that merits further exploration.
And now, for your viewing pleasure: the episode referenced in the VF article, just now rounding the bend on 8 million views.