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Age-Old Question: Olivia or Peppa Pig?

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In my house the age-old question of the moment (with “age” being approximately between 4-12 years old) has to do with pigs, or more appropriately with animated pigs that appear in television shows. Nick Jr. here in the United States currently airs three shows with pigs as main characters, and poor old Porky is not to be found. Instead we have Toot and Puddle, Olivia, and Peppa Pig. For this discussion we are limited to the last two because Toot and Puddle was voted out of it. Therefore, my favorite “pig” show was determined by my kids to be unworthy of examination.

Olivia and Peppa Pig are for younger viewers to be sure, but although there are many similarities, there are distinct differences that set them apart. My son’s (4) favorite is Peppa Pig; my daughter’s (12) is Olivia, though she used to see the merit of Toot and Puddle, two pigs who travel by plane all over the world. In general she’d rather be watching Disney shows like Ant Farm and Shake It Up; however, since my son has no tolerance for “girl” shows, that is not to be when he is in the room.

Since both main characters are female pigs one could assume that these shows are meant for girls, but both feature little brothers (Olivia has two – Ian and William and Peppa has one – George), fathers (Olivia calls hers “Dad” and Peppa calls hers “Daddy Pig”), and male friends. Thus boys will find something of interest here, especially when the brothers are taunting their sisters (Ian is dubbed “my little bother” by Olivia).

My son likes shows that depict families, and in his opinion Peppa Pig has a family that he identifies with quite closely. Being a little brother, he sees the world as revolving around his bigger sister (nothing could be further from the truth), and George basically sees things as all part of Peppa’s world. My daughter likes Olivia more (and she has liked this show for years) because Olivia shares similar interests (plays piano, goes to ballet class, is an actress and born leader). Olivia tries to manipulate situations, and sometimes Ian is an accomplice akin to Ethel to Lucy in the old I Love Lucy sitcom; other times Ian torments her or blocks her plans.

What really sets these two shows apart even more are the worlds they depict. Olivia is a pigs only world. All her friends and acquaintances are pigs, as are her teachers, doctors, mail carriers, and police officers. In this world the painter Degas uses pigs as subjects, and Olivia allows her imagination to run away with her (in sometimes elaborate fantasy sequences) and she becomes famous people whom we know as humans but she envisions as pigs.

In Peppa Pig we have a much more diverse landscape. Peppa’s friends include Suzy Sheep and Danny Dog. There are many other species depicted, and this adds a richness and complexity lacking in its counterpart. Peppa’s world includes her navigating the ins and outs of most childhood dilemmas, but when all else fails she and her family revert to a snort and a dip in a muddy puddle to solve the world’s problems.

One of the great things that both of these shows have in common is a little girl (uh, pig) who dreams big, plays hard, and is not afraid to try new things. Olivia is much more dynamic and determined (perhaps because she is 6 and Peppa is only 4), but Peppa too knows what she wants and tries to get it.

Another especially important thing the shows have in common is cohesive family portrayals. I think my son particularly likes Peppa and family most because he sees the love they share, the fun they have together, and that the little brother gets many things that he wants (like a big dinosaur birthday party). I believe he is a little daunted by Olivia’s independence and her usually victorious outcomes over brother Ian (who is 4). He will watch Olivia and laugh when Ian teases or tortures his sister, but he is not pleased when Olivia comes out on top.

Peppa Pig is a British animated series from creator, director, and producer Astley Baker Davies. It has a distinct British feel with the characters all speaking with accents that my children recognize and enjoy. Olivia is a British-American series based on the books of Ian Falconer (my daughter always notes that his first name is the same as the brother who taunts his sister). Peppa “episodes” are shorts, lasting about five minutes a piece (which may be the main reason why my little one likes it more with his attention span). Olivia shows are approximately twenty minutes and contain conflict and resolution within that span.

Both shows are family friendly, but Olivia has nice insider jokes that will make parents chuckle while the reference goes over their kids’ heads (Olivia mentions her “blue period” being over as a painter, for example). There is great theme music associated with each, which will keep the kids humming along, and both shows teach a “lesson” along the way, with Olivia being more sophisticated in delivery.

I would be remiss if I did not mention Toot and Puddle one last time. It is my favorite show of the three because the traveling pigs make me believe in anything because these pigs fly. My daughter used to like them but sadly she is on to more important things (like Dancing with the Stars), but perhaps my son will get what’s going on with them when he is a little older. Until then, I’ll be watching Olivia and Peppa and keep thinking, “Where’s Porky Pig when I need him?”

Photo credits: peppa pig-tvrage.com; olivia – newshoppher.sulekha.com; toot and puddle – timeout.com

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About Victor Lana

Victor Lana has published numerous stories, articles, and poems in literary magazines and online. His books In a Dark Time (1994), A Death in Prague (2002), Move (2003), The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories (2005) and Like a Passing Shadow (2009) are available online and as e-books. He has won the National Arts Club Award for Poetry, but has concentrated mostly on fiction and non-fiction prose in recent years. He has worked as faculty advisor to school literary magazines and enjoys the creative process as a writer, editor, and collaborator. He has been with Blogcritics since July 2005, has edited many articles, was co-head sports editor with Charley Doherty, and now is a Culture and Society editor. He views Blogcritics as one of most exciting, fresh, and meaningful opportunities in his writing life.