But Peppa never does. She is never condemned for her bad behaviour. Her cruelty to George goes unpunished. Nobody ever calls her on her bullshit, least of all her wetwipe parents. The show imparts no moral critique.
The closest she comes to getting her comeuppance are episodes like ‘Whistling’, where she is embarrassed because everybody can whistle except her, or ‘Bicycles’, where she is embarrassed because she is the only one whose bike still has stabilisers. But even there, she doesn’t learn any kind of humility. At the allotted time, when the episode needs to wrap up, suddenly she can whistle. Suddenly she can ride a bike without stabilisers. No emotional or ethical journey is articulated. As with all the show’s attempts at drama, problems are just kind of solved by default. I’m not asking for perfect Aristotelian unity from Peppa Pig, but come on.
And come the following episode, Peppa is back to her old self. Mocking her baby brother, boasting about how good she is at everything, lording it over her friends, fat-shaming Daddy Pig (we’ll come to Daddy Pig). She is a terrible role model for children. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if some older kids learned some pretty bad habits from her regarding how one treats a younger sibling.
But of course, like all children, Peppa is a product of her environment. So let’s take a look at that environment.
The Ugly Ethical Landscape of Daddy Pig
Daddy Pig is the pits. A buffoon, a blowhard, a risible figure. The perfect cliché of the ineffectual sitcom dad. A man fond of declaring himself ‘a bit of an expert’ at things, then proceeding to demonstrate that he is at best an amateur, and at worst dangerously inept. And does he ever learn his lesson? Of course not! No wonder Peppa is the way she is.
But we must also feel a measure of sympathy for Daddy Pig, piteous hog that he is, because he is regularly, gleefully fat-shamed by his family, including his wife. This fatphobia is part of a nasty reactionary streak running through the show, which elsewhere manifests as aggressive heteronormativity (e.g. an episode whose drama hinges on Daddy Pig’s white football shirt turning pink in the wash, because a man couldn’t possibly wear a pink shirt to play football) and anti-intellectualism (e.g. in the figure of Edmond Elephant, a precocious child who is constantly dismissed – even by the narrator, the nominal moral centre of the show – as a ‘clever clogs’).