Monday, 21 February 2011

Is Rastamouse the new Gollywog?

Have you heard of Rastamouse? Neither had I. Until I heard that a friend of mine had called in to a phone-in radio show to complain about this cartoon character and many others had written to the BBC asking for it to be taken off air. Not to mention the middle class mums on networking sites debating the dangers or otherwise of the dreaded Rastamouse.

Rastamouse is a cool, black mouse dude, dripping with stereotypes, who apparently is very popular with the under fives on CBBC. He is a laid back rastafarian mouse detective who speaks in patios, loves his "cheese" (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) and has a bunch of cool black stereotypical mouse friends. Where's the harm in that and why are people gettng so hot under the collar about dear old cool, black stereotypical rastamouse (after all are we black people not all cool, laid back stereotypical fellows? In fact some of my best friends are cool, black and stereotypical. I'm not racist).

I think what is happening is that black people of a certain age (i.e. my age) are wincing at the playground experience that must surely follow from the widespread popularity of Rastamouse. Whenever you get a new, cool black character on TV (or a white character pretending to be a black character) then as sure as night follows day you will get white kids in playgrounds renaming their black friends accordingly.

In my day it was the friendly old Gollywog. A lovely black character. I even had a gollywog of my very own. I had a gollywog and a wheelbarrow although at the time I used to say I had a "wheelwog and a gollybarrow". I collected gollywog badges with pride. I am still strangely fond of gollywogs, apart from the fact that I have been called Golly, Gollywog, Woggy so many times now that I've kind of gone off the character a bit. Then of course you've got good old Chalky, or Kunta Kinte (who hasn't been called Kunta Kinte eh? You've got to laungh), or the various Lenny Henry characters over the years.

So now a new generation of young black people get to be called Rastamouse until they come to hate the nice little mouse and lodge it away in their subconscious ready to dredge up in a blog post in years to come. And the good folk at the BBC who thought him up (what on earth were they thinking? Did someone say "hmmm, playgrounds are a bit light on racial banter these days. Anyone got any ideas?") don't even realise that they are continuing a long tradition of causing unintended pain to little me as my best friend starts shouting across the playground "hey, little Tommy, hey Wa'gwan Rastamouse? Want some cheese mon? Hahahahah" and everyone, including me, burst into laughter (because you've got to laugh haven't you? It's only a little racial
banter. No big deal. Why is everyone so sensitive about it. I mean, for goodness sake, come on)

Mind you black kids today shouldn't complain. In my day we had proper, high grade Class A racial banter in the playground. Who doesn't remember having 20 kids standing around you in a circle chanting that inspiring song

"Hey Tom

Wogs the matter?

Feeling a bit Browned off?

Didn't have your Coon-flakes?

Nigger mind

Go Black to bed

You'll feel all White in the morning"

Ah, those were the days. The good old Seventies. You've got to laugh. Hahahaha. Wa'gwan, Rastamouse.