‘Peppa Pig,’the British pre-schoolers cartoon, was released in 2004 and since then has taken the world (China, in particular), by storm. First introduced in China on state broadcaster, CCTV, in 2015, ‘Peppa Pig’ has quickly become a household name and icon.
The pink pig with the hairdryer shaped head has racked up over 34 billion views since its release and its popularity is continuing to grow.
However, like any other celebrity, Peppa hasn’t shied away from controversy. The popular meme of Peppa savagely hanging up the phone after discovering that her friend Suzie Sheep could whistle while Peppa could not quickly broke the internet and catapulted Peppa away from toddlers and into the spotlight, transforming her into an unlikely rebel icon here in China.
She became a ‘shehuiren,’ slang term for ‘gangster,’ a symbol for those wanting to live a life free of constraints and societal pressures. In May 2018 on Weibo, the hashtag #societyperson’speppapig had been viewed nearly 30 million times. Peppa’s increasing popularity as a gangster has even sparked a new tattoo craze through a short rhyme roughly translated to ‘get your Peppa Pig tatt, shout out to your frat.”
In March 2018, a series of pictures appeared on Weibo, one of China’s biggest social networks, combining Peppa Pig and the logos of various premium brands such as Supreme, Chanel and Gucci. One t-shirt in particular stands out by mixing Balenciaga’s slogan, ‘the power of dreams,’ with Peppa thereby creating ‘Balencipeppa,’ or ‘the power of Peppa.’
However, this rise to fame did not sit especially well with the government. In late April, videos of Peppa disappeared from Douyin much to the dismay of users. Previously, there were at least 30 000 videos under the hashtag #peppapig.
The state newspaper, The Global Times, explains that in the online context, ‘shehuiren’ refers to people who run counter to the mainstream value and are the antithesis of the young generation the Party tries to cultivate.
Jiang Haisheng, chief of the Journalism and Communication Department under Shandong University of Political Science and Law explained to The Global Times that “if the subcultural thoughts and behaviors go out of control to the extreme, it could damage society.
“When the young generation grows up, their cultural characteristics will deeply influence the progress and development of our society,” Jiang said. “Therefore, it is necessary to conduct positive means such as monitoring and leading to improve the quality of young people and their self-understanding.”
But it appears that the Peppa censoring came too late; the pig’s influence had already filtered out into society and could not be stopped.
A feature film marking the rehabilitation of Peppa starring the peppy pig is set to be released on February 5th, just in time for the Lunar New Year. The movie, translated as ‘Peppa Pig Celebrates Chinese New Year’, tells the story of two Chinese children nicknamed Jiozi (dumplings) and Tangyuan (glutinous rice ball), and their friend Peppa, celebrating the festival with their families.
In late October 2018, China’s first ‘Peppa Pig’ theme park opened in Shanghai with another planned to open in Beijing later in 2019. The park brings the TV characters to life with family inclusive activities.
As you can see Peppa Pig is well and truly a Chinese sensation. Her ability to capture the hearts and minds of everyone from toddlers through to adults is a true phenomenon that does not appear to be slowing down. So, sit down, put on some Peppa Pig and get ready for the Year of the Pig, a year that is sure to be an exciting one for Peppa, you and me.