Recently discussing Halloween costumes in our house, the suggestion was made that we try to find a Dennis the Menace outfit for the wee man. He’s hit the Terrible Two’s, you see. And foremost amongst his favourite pastimes these days are climbing both animate and inanimate objects, leaping from said objects whilst shouting ‘whhhhheeee’, kicking things, throwing things, dismantling things (use of tools optional), closing examining sockets and all electrical apparatus with said tools and generally causing mayhem wherever he goes. Seeing as he’s been affectionately rechristened ‘Maim and Destroy’ by some members of the family, we thought everyone’s favourite bad boy, Dennis, would be a fitting guise for our tiny tearaway.
But, I was utterly amazed to discover, that would be wholly inappropriate, seeing as Dennis has been de-catapulted. That’s right, Dennis has been banned from picking on Walter the Softy and his canine buddy Gnasher no longer grabs people by the seat of their pants in the CBBC’s cartoon version of Dennis the Menace. Recently ‘re-imagined’ into a less violent series, the no mischief Dennis instead makes ingenious contraptions that backfire spectacularly with apparently hilarious results. Ya what???
It seems in this PC world we live in, the Beeb deemed it wrong in the extreme that Dennis should exhort such glee from terrorising people. They were worried that his tendency towards violence would corrupt their young viewers and, in particular, his terrifying of the effeminate Walter the Softy would be interpreted as ‘gay bashing’. The new character, who has been given an English accent in the new TV series, will also appear in the Beano from next month. Has the world gone mad?
Since it was first launched as a comic strip in 1951, Dennis the Menace was the very epitome of ‘mischievous young fellas’ and that glint in his eye is one I’ve started to recognize in my own little man. But this sanitized version of Dennis looks an altogether friendly little chap, with a bright grin on his face and na’er a pea-shooter in sight. Apparently even the family of Dennis the Menace’s creator have condemned this ‘disinfected’ version of the much-loved character.
Okay, there is a veritable argument to be made that kids are easily influenced by violence. But Dennis, when I was growing up, was considered good, old-fashioned fun and a few bumps and bruises along the way never seemed to do Dennis or anyone else any real harm. Do we want our kids to grow up in a world where they think nobody ever gets their feelings hurt?
The thing is, in my experience, most young children love wreaking havoc and find great mirth in the misfortunes of others. Else, why would the likes of the Loony Tunes have enjoyed such longevity? Admit it, surely you remember being as delighted as the Road Runner when that Damned Coyote blew himself up again? That’s entertainment, folks! Somewhere along the line, we do eventually realise that you can’t solve all of life’s little problems with Acme Blasting Powder.