They are a family of pigs living high on a hill - Mummy pig, Daddy pig, Peppa and George - sporting twee English accents and with an odd tendency to fall over when laughing, which is quite often.

Now, Peppa Pig, a British kids cartoon series that has played only minimally on New Zealand television but is widely known through its multitudinous merchandising manifestations, is being blamed on turning children into, well, little swines.

The criticism that has come about this week in the UK centres on the fact the little brother George says "vegetables, YUK!" a lot - much like any ordinary kid - and both Peppa and George bellow out "Chocolate cake!" when asked what they want for breakfast. They also splash in mud puddles a lot.

These things seem quite minor but I think perhaps more insidious is the suggestion, throughout all Peppa programmes (and we have many of them on DVD) that children should, nay do, rule the roost. Especially Peppa, who, as a real child, would be commonly known as a "little turd". The mother is an accomplice of the children, ensuring whatever they desire they get without seeming to have much else on her plate, and the father comes a solid last in the hierarchy, a bumbling clown that most of them end up making fun of.


In fact, my brother-in-law is so disgusted with the message Peppa sends about fathers, he has banned it in his household.

I've tried quietly disposing of the DVDs, but not for the reasons mentioned above. After all, Peppa and George don't really seem to behave that much worse than, say, Charlie and Lola, Ben 10, Timmy Time's Timmy, or the baddies on Fifi and the Flowertots (for some reason the American characters always seem to be so much more well behaved than the Brits: Barney, Dora and Diego, Little Bill, even Spongebob Squarepants and the Scooby Doo crew are unfailingly polite).

No, I just find Peppa irritating - she's the kind of kid most people would loathe in real life, even though nowadays we are less inclined to call such children bossy little madams and more likely to say they "know their own mind" or are "assertive". I maintain her parents are wet (not just kindly), her brother is a little gobshite (rather than behaviourally challenged), and her grandparents are rich, snobbish, pompous buffoons (instead of just Tory voters), but still, it's not quite Grand Theft Auto.

That doesn't mean Peppa's any less likely to attract the ire of parents looking to cast around for reasons for bad behavior. They seemingly unwilling, or unable, to simply change channel or shut off the TV when they find something so utterly, mind-bendingly objectionable - as objectionable as (gasp) a family of cartoon pigs designed for preschoolers.

Check out an episode of Peppa Pig: