A series of child sex scandals have been rocking the British media world. First, the legendary charity figure and children’s TV host Jimmy Savile turned out to be a monstrous pedophile, and now the much loved Rolf Harris, a television icon since the 1960’s has been brought up on 13 charges of indecent assault and child pornography. So widespread are accusations of predatory behavior within the media that the police operation has expanded to investigate multiple television personalities.
For anyone who grew up in the UK in the past 40 years, the revelations are highly traumatic (of course not in comparison to the actual victims). Were our childhoods really molded by sex predators who use their platform to gain children’s trust? Were children’s television was one big inside joke by repressed adults with serious personality disorders?
Hysteria over pedophiles is particularly rampant in the UK, with tabloids like The Sun regularly plastering their front page with headlines about marauding pedophiles coming after the nation’s children. In response to the relentless panic spread by the sensationalist press, the news satire ‘Brass Eye’ once ran an episode named ‘Paedogeddon’ (the British way of spelling pedophile) about pedophiles sneaking around neighborhoods disguised as schools. Of course Britain is not being overrun by pedophiles, but one can’t help but wonder whether the children’s television industry provides sanctuary for some, how shall we say, ‘deviant’ behavior.
Take for example ‘Captain Pugwash’ a fictional pirate in a series of British children’s comic strips and books created by John Ryan. Ostensibly, it was a harmless cartoon about pirates, but just take a look at some of names of the main characters. There’s ‘Master Bates’, ‘Seaman Staines’, and ‘Roger the Cabin Boy’ (‘roger’ is British slang for sexual intercourse). A coincidence? Maybe, but given the industry has a reputation for debauchery, it isn’t a stretch.
The BBC documentary, ‘Lights! Camera! Action! Tales of Television Centre’ reported on the sordid nature of children’s television, detailing tales of “stars having sex on work premises, strong ‘herbal smells’ wafting down corridors and presenters appearing in front of the camera ‘stoned out of their minds'”
In 1979, the cast and crew of the incredibly popular children’s show ‘Rainbow’ made a special ‘dirty’ sketch for the Thames Television staff on Christmas. It wasn’t publicly broadcast until years later on a late night chat show, but having grown up watching the show, it certainly made me think about the hosts in a completely different light.
Of course this doesn’t mean that ‘The Smurfs’ was secretly midget porn and ‘He-Man’ a double entendre for gay sex, but you can’t help but wonder.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.