Will We Ever Be Free Of The Tyranny Of Peppa Pig?
After a decade-plus of Peppa’s incessant oinking, whiny behavior, and casual sexism, I am so over it.
I can’t remember ever parenting without Peppa Pig by my side. In the 11 years that I’ve been raising my four daughters as an American living in the U.K., she and her family and friends have been everywhere: oinking at me from the television, shrieking “Dinosaur... grr!” from the pages of books, and quite literally speaking to me as I stumble over squeaking Peppa-themed toys, which all seem to have infinite battery life.
While I like to think my parenting is governed by choice and free will, Peppa’s takeover of my life doesn’t feel entirely voluntary.
She and her pals have been foisted on me over the years, first by well-meaning English friends who gave me hand-me-down stuffed pigs and Peppa houses, cars, and puzzles, and then by every one of my sweet toddlers. All it took was that initial five-minute high of animated bliss — turned on in a moment of desperation on a chaotic afternoon — and they were hooked. Each child in turn has relentlessly, passionately, campaigned to make our lives more porcine-friendly, begging for costumes, toys, theater trips, and books featuring Peppa and all of her friends.
I believe that TV has many uses in a parent’s life: it’s entertainment, it’s education and, if I’m being completely candid, it’s also a babysitter. Peppa Pig fails on all three fronts for me. With the sexist, body-shaming nonsense the characters regularly grunt out, I don’t want to leave my kids alone with Peppa for a moment.
In one episode, “Daddy’s Big Tummy” is the password to Peppa’s treehouse hideaway, which Daddy can’t even fit inside.
Each episode ostensibly replicates a situation our kids might recognize, like going to a playgroup or bringing home a pet fish, but something always irks me (an impressive feat considering each episode is only five minutes long). Studies regularly show that television can act as a teacher of sorts for kids, but I don’t think this is the kind of show that will encourage the open, curious, and tolerant behavior I hope to foster in my children.
And I’m not just talking about the fact that every child wants to “jump in muddy puddles” — no matter what they happen to be wearing — after watching an episode or two.
Peppa Pig doesn’t just portray a traditional version of what a family could look like (mom, dad, older sister, younger brother), it relies on lazy tropes for easy laughs. Daddy Pig is a “doofus dad” through and through, incapable of doing most things and regularly fat-shamed for having a “big tummy.” In one episode, “Daddy’s Big Tummy” is the password to Peppa’s treehouse hideaway, which Daddy can’t even fit inside.
The show is no stranger to controversy, with certain episodes featuring controversial safety messaging banned in Australia (videos of the show were also deleted from a Chinese video sharing platform in 2018 after Peppa became known as a subversive symbol of the counterculture). There have also been numerous accusations of sexism, like an episode in 2009 which repeatedly used the word “fireman” instead of the more inclusive “firefighter.” I’m still fuming over a Peppa library book about a fun fair: Mummy Pig is told she won’t be able to manage an arrow shooting game because, and I quote: “Women are useless at this.” She does subsequently win the game, but the damage has already been done.
Not that my opinion matters all that much: Peppa is the most popular pig on the planet. Created by Astley Baker Davies, the show, which has been running in the UK since May 2004 and is currently in its seventh season, recently announced new episodes to see parents through 2027, in partnership with a new animation studio, Karrot.
Available in 180 countries, it’s the second most in-demand cartoon in U.S. households (after SpongeBob SquarePants), according to data from Parrot Analytics. Peppa doesn’t just rule the small screen; she’s everywhere. There’s a Peppa theme park opening in Legoland in Florida in 2022 (the Peppa Pig World attraction in Hampshire, England, is already a very popular destination for families).
I can't even consume (adult) pop culture without stumbling across her, although admittedly, Peppa's snarky personality is far more suited to social media stardom than children's TV. The official Peppa Pig Twitter account trolled Kanye West in September, and just this week, Kourtney Kardashian posted a Peppa meme in an IG photo dump to troll her sister, Kim.
As an American living in London, I can confirm that Peppa Pig is as much a part of the cultural fabric here as the Queen herself (you can even read about their adventures together, with Peppa teaching Her Majesty to jump in muddy puddles — what else? — in a picture book on sale in the official Royal Collection Trust shop).
But it’s Americans who are currently going crazy for the show, with demand 112 percent higher in the U.S. than in the U.K. One reason? Parents can’t get enough of the “Peppa effect,” which first emerged as a trend when Romper covered it in 2019. It’s the phenomenon (disputed by some linguists, but parents swear it’s happening) where American kids adopt cute English accents and expressions after increased exposure to the show.
While I’m not one to squabble over how appealing it is for an American parent to hear their toddler speak in the Queen’s English (even after all my years here, I still smile whenever one of mine calls me “mummy”), this Peppa obsession boggles my mind. No matter how cute the accent may be... it isn’t enough to redeem the show and its characters of their many foibles. I know I’m not alone.
Even Stanley Tucci, the celebrity we all dream was a dad in one of our kid’s classes, has fantasized about the demise of the responsible parties.
“I hate that pig. She’s nasty, selfish and mean to her brother — unless she wants something from him. I’ve always thought she’s a terrible role model,” says my friend, Sharon, another American in London. Bratty Peppa Pig has been the topic of (too) many of our conversations over the years as we’d push our toddlers around the park. We figured we weren’t fans because we were Americans and were missing some of the English humor, but evidence suggests that’s… not it.
Even Stanley Tucci, the celebrity we all dream was a dad in one of our kid’s classes, has fantasized about the demise of the responsible parties: “There is no question that my wife and I, along with many parents, wish the creators of that irritating animated swine a slow death, but they are so rich, they have probably purchased immortality. And yet at the same time, said pig allows us respite for half an hour or so every day. May God bless those creators,” he wrote in his lockdown diary for The Atlantic.
Maybe Peppa is just like that other most English of exports, Marmite, a yeast spread people either really love or can’t stand at all (in case you were wondering, I don’t do Marmite either). Many English moms I speak to think Peppa is just fabulous: “Personally, I thought her sometimes less-than-perfect behaviour was realistic and it wasn't rewarded, nor judged, but just worked through without being preachy. So, happy result: not saccharine nor preachy but humorous and realistic,” Rachel, a mother of three, says.
With my youngest now 4, I’m starting to move into a stage of parenthood where Peppa’s days in my house are numbered. I won’t be sorry to see the back of that oinking pink head with her red dress, especially since I keep on discovering amazing new kids’ shows on TV to see us through the next stage of parenting life like Julie and the Phantoms, Waffles & Mochi, The Babysitters’ Club, and now, the hit Australian series Bluey, about a family of blue heeler dogs, recently arrived on English screens.
My kids and I are totally obsessed with how gloriously that show celebrates the joys of imaginative play. Bandit, the dad, is my parenting inspo. In many ways, it’s similar to Peppa: simple animations, a central animal family, depictions of day-to-day life. But it’s refreshingly different and the two shows don’t really have anything in common: Bluey is quirky, inspiring and a joy to watch, whether you’re 5 or 45.
And I’ve heard that American parents also swear their kids are picking up Australian expressions like “g’day” and “brekky,” complete with cute Aussie accents, after watching the show.
No insults, pandering, or oinks necessary.