Friday, February 18, 2011

Rastamouse kids BBC TV show sparks racism row....

Controversial Rastamouse (Pic: BBC)
by Steve Myall, Daily Mirror 17/02/2011
With its singalong rhymes and upbeat tales, Rastamouse is like many other children’s TV shows – except this one has sparked a bitter row about racism.

The patois-speaking puppet, who fights crime and spreads love and respect, has been a huge hit with the BBC’s younger viewers since the show hit screens at the end of last month.

He has dreadlocks, a Rasta Tam (woolly hat), rides a skateboard and uses words like “irie” (happy) and “wagwan” (what’s going on?).

His mission is to “make a bad ting good”. And the stories feature his all-rodent reggae band, Da Easy Crew, who hang out at the Nuff Song recording studio in Mouseland.

Celebrity fans include Lily Allen, Dizzee Rascal, Adrian Chiles, Radio One DJ Rob Da Bank and actress Tamzin Outhwaite. But the series has also provoked hundreds of complaints – some parents fear it is racist and encourages the use of slang.

One concerned mother on the Mumsnet forum said: “I’m most worried about her saying words like ‘Rasta’... My child is white and I feel if she was to say this to another child who was not that it would be seen as her insulting the other child.”

And a parent on said: “Just watched a couple videos... I think it is racist.”

One of those unhappy with the show is Levi Roots, the man behind the Reggae Reggae sauce brand.

Levi told the Mirror: “I was asked to do the voice of the mouse, but I said no. I am a Rastafarian and I wouldn’t want to portray a Rastafarian as a mouse. For me it is about integrity.

“I’d never portray a Rasta as a pig or a mouse as I don’t think the values of being a Rasta are served by that. If it was a lion that would be very different, a lion is strong symbol in Rastafarianism.

“Personally, I do not support this representation of us. But we do need representation on TV and as this is the first it should be given a chance. People need to decide whether it is right or wrong for themselves. I have seven children and I would most certainly not want them to watch this show.”

Rastafarian poet Benjamin Zephaniah is less critical. He said: “It’s not the greatest representation of the community, and the accents are not very accurate – probably because people wouldn’t understand a real one. But it’s the first, so of course it is going to attract criticism.

“The fact that he’s a mouse isn’t great. If you asked the community 99% would want a lion, but so would English football fans.

“On the whole, I’d rather have Rastamouse than not.”

But psychologist Delroy Constantine-Simms has slated the show, saying: “Rastamouse is no better than the new sambo – golliwog in drag. No other ethnic group in Britain would allow their religion to be represented by a rodent. Can you imagine a Jewish person writing Jewie the Crime Fighting Pig? Or a follower of the Hindu faith endorsing Hindi the Crime Fighting Cow?

“Or a book from a Muslim writer titled Jihad Jane? It just would not happen.”

The row has even got as far the Voice newspaper, which aims to serve the black community. Its entertainment editor Davina Hamilton said: “We should applaud Rastamouse – whose mission of ‘making a bad ting good’ is wholly positive – as a first for children’s programming. And we should use it as an opportunity to encourage broadcasters to create other programmes and dramas that reflect elements of black culture.”

According to the BBC, six viewers have complained that Rastamouse stereotypes black people, while another 95 have complained about the language in the show.

Radio One DJ Reggie Yates, who is the voice of Rastamouse, has defended the show.He said: “When I was a kid there were never any cartoons that felt relevant.

“Rastamouse is an amazing opportunity for me to be involved in a show that my nieces and nephews watch and think is really cool.

“There are a million and one children’s television programmes where all of the characters are either racially ambiguous or very European – nobody bats an eyelid about those shows.

“But the minute you do something different, naturally, it earns attention. That’s not a bad thing, but it would be nice to get to a point where people just say: ‘Oh great, there’s another show that represents a different part of our community’.”

Rastamouse’s love of cheese has also sparked controversy. Some adult viewers have claimed on Twitter that it is code for marijuana. But creators Genevieve Webster and Michael De Souza insist Rastamouse does not endorse drugs. Genevieve added: “There is no innuendo intended.”

Despite the controversy, Rastamouse is set to go global. The Rastamouse Company has licensed the 52 episodes to broadcasters in Poland, Australia, Canada and Israel with a range of merchandise to follow.

Rastamouse has also signed a deal with EMI to release an album of reggae tracks. He has a debut single out, Ice Popp, and a Facebook group: Let’s get Rastamouse in the Charts.

He may not be a lion, but he is already a roaring success.



  1. Awesome! How do I post this on Facebook?

  2. Just click the title of the thread to take you to the page of the post, then copy the URL in the address bar of your browser.
    Then simply paste the URL onto your facebook wall, facebook will pickup the URL and text content along with any images and give a link for people to click on.
    Hope this helps...

  3. I love RastaMouse and I encourage my kids to watch it it too!! As an American born Jamaican mother this is the first representation I have seen of our culture on the tv airways and my kids take pride in seeing characters more similar to their culture on tv (we watch it online). As far slang and words I don't see anyone complaining about other cartoons using terms like "dude", "awesome", "knarly" "radical',or "bro" so whats wrong with rasta.. it's not a bad word.. if a kid uses it so what... It is not appropriate for nearly everything on television to be European or Caucasion based and it's not a racist thing it's an equal opportunity thing we are all brothers and sisters of the human race.
    Rasta Mouse sends a positive message in an entertaining way.. But I guess people would rather have their kids watch shows like Yugioh that portrays demons and nonsense....

    Big ups to Rasta Mouse and the Easy Crew!!

  4. I agree, the show does more good than bad, you will always find someone complain about these things. It's nice to hear some Jamaican accents on the TV and for Jamaica to have some representation on TV even if it is only via a kids cartoon and we must remember this is what it is, not a serious documentary. Didn't they have something called Ninja mouse a while back and Mighty Mouse of course and Danger Mouse, the mouse thing is just a funny character for a cartoon, so now Rasta mouse... i see why a Rasta might be offended though as any representations of Rastafari on TV should come from the Rasta community right, so i totally understand why Rasta's might be offended by this but i also understand that the show was not created or broadcast to cause any offense, it was made in good will to entertain kids, and this can only be positive right?
    What i think would be fair, is if the BBC gave the Rasta community the chance to air a program about Rastafari on the BBC just to give viewers a real life view of Rastafari, this would be most appropriate. I can think of several such documentaries which they could show....i hope they do...