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Home > Culture and Society

Eat, Drink and Be Merry: Just Don't Come Crying To Us

30 August 2006

We're not saying some members of the Government are fat, but road protesters are once again taking to the trees and digging tunnels to prevent a bypass being built around the Cabinet's meeting room. John Prescott is now so large that spacetime curves around him and small objects cannot escape his gravitational pull. He's orbited by a set of rings like Saturn made up of pork pie crumbs, brown ale bottle tops and stray peanuts that missed his slack, stupid gob. Between him and the Lord Chancellor Charlie 'Accidentally Locked In A Tuck Shop As A Boy' Falconer, Gordon 'chocolate fudge' Brown and John 'that's what you get for packing in the fags' Reid, cabinet meetings are now cheek by jowl by jowl by jowl with Tessa Jowell.

Needless to say, a slender government minister the newly-designated 'Minister for Fitness', Caroline Flint - was wheeled out this week to tell Britain to get off its collective arse and get some exercise. Although the mental image of Prescott, Falconer, Brown and Reid shame-facedly attempting to launch a fitness campaign on national television is an immensely pleasing one, unfortunately there are limits to hypocrisy that even New Labour can't break.

Obesity, according to figures, costs the country 7 billion a year. Don't think just because you've paid a lifetime of National Insurance contributions you'll be able to get yourself sorted out after years on the couch in front of 'Deal or No Deal', family sized Pork Farm pie in one hand and a fondant fancy on each finger of the other. Oh, no. Apparently the NHS now deals only with nice, neat, easily fixed conditions, not sweaty, unattractive, heaving ailments like a third of the population are going to have by the end of the decade. No refunds either, sorry.

So now it's push-ups and star jumps for all. It's hard not to have a certain degree of sympathy with the Government on this, though, as huge swathes of UK citizens have abdicated almost all responsibility for their own lives. No wonder the Government have resorted to jabbing us with a rhetorical pointy stick.

And yet. We've been patronised and treated with contempt practically ever since we left the womb. Whether it be from the farty physics teacher disdainfully chucking your F- back at you, the bank manager trying to suppress his giggles as he reviews your loan request, or the narcissistic boss who makes you feel like you've asked for a go on his mother rather than for a day off. Add to that Prime Ministers and Presidents who, with a straight face, will tell you the only way to save our cherished freedoms is to give them away, and is it any wonder some people just give up? That people expect Somebody Else to do It for them? That those Somebody Elses then take the piss is only to be expected, really.

But what really gets us gritting our teeth, like John Prescott trying to eat a salad, is the expectations of some that junk food companies have the responsibility to teach our children about healthy eating and that the oil and the gas companies are going to save the planet. Or, as we saw this week, in a crowning moment of Western civilisation, that television cartoon channels are responsible for whether our children smoke.

As you're no doubt aware, Media megacorp Turner Broadcasting announced it's to edit scenes of Tom and Jerry smoking from their cartoons after its Boomerang children's channel had one *just one* complaint from an over-concerned parent. Telecoms watchdog Ofcom welcomed the decision despite its admission that:

'We are not aware of evidence from research in the UK that shows a direct correlation between children who see smoking on television with a greater propensity to take up smoking.'

This despite the fact that Tom and Jerry do all manner of much worse things to each other. We spent a very pleasant hour on the couch watching a bunch of their cartoons for research. They knock seven shades out of each other with a variety of objects found in the average home including fishing rods, baseball bats, pool cues, spades, garden rakes, axes, plates, golf clubs and bowling balls. They set each other on fire with matches. Where's the uproar from the fire service? Why isn't the animal rights lobby up in arms about Tom's perennial longing for a mouse sandwich? Where's the RSPCA's condemnation of Tom's shooting of a baby duck up the arse with a shotgun? Hell, Tom smokes more sticks of dynamite than cigars, thanks to Jerry's recurring cigar/dynamite switcharoo. Why aren't the security services seizing these recordings in case of their power to incite terrorist acts? Why isn't the Commission for Racial Equality jumping about over the fact that every time Tom or Jerry get blown up, the soot makes them look like pickaninnies and Tom's owner is a big, screeching, stereotypical black mamma?

Because it's a fucking cartoon, *that's* why.

What next, we can only guess. 'George from Rainbow made my son gay'? If TV is so influential on small minds then why aren't more children growing up to be postmen (as in Pat), builders (as in Bob, The) and Firemen (as in Sam)? We may have missed it but we're pretty sure there isn't a kids' cartoon about Middle Management Mike, and yet we're up to our necks in the tossers. If people believe that cartoons are mind-washing the kids, why haven't we got an 'Eric the Electrician' and 'Pete the Plumber'? Or 'Madge the Midwife'? A little televisual social engineering and our skills shortage would be slashed at a stroke. Or not. For all of children's TV's seeming emphasis on caring and sharing these days, our school playgrounds are still seething with miniature Charles Mansons.

Isn't that parent, by airing their complaint, making the implicit admission that they aren't looking after their children properly? Who told these people 'McDonalds and Walkers crisps made your porcine brood the way they are' or 'The chocolate and cereal companies rotted all their teeth' or 'Tom and Jerry are teaching your children to smoke'? Instead of children and parents getting to know each other better (yeah, we shivered at the thought as well) or wobbling out to McDonalds less often or giving the kids an apple instead of five Snickers, these people decided to blame anybody, everybody, else, rather than themselves.

Let's have a bit of responsibility, shall we? Sure, cram yourself daft with buns on the sofa until you can't fit through doors, like some kind of fashioned-from-lard ship in a bottle. Smoke until your mouth looks like a camel's arse and your lungs resemble a pair of Odour Eater insoles. Drink until your liver is so tough it would choke Hannibal Lecter. But don't blame anybody else but yourself if, rather than going out in a blaze of glory, you go out in an ooze of McFlurry.

As much as we'd give anything to see John Prescott, John Reid and the rest of our corpulent overlords sweatily tottering around a park, pausing only to chunder their breakfasts into the hedgerows, we'll actually say, don't bother, chaps. They seem like they know what they're doing and so should the rest of us. If our political heavyweights want to have heaving, breathless, parping deaths, that's fine by us. They just shouldn't think they can rob us of ours. And, fair's fair, we'll have some of the state-of-the-art care they'll undoubtedly receive when the heart attacks, strokes or rectal prolapses inevitably arrive.

Pass the Viennetta.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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