Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Bear Necessities

For most Sri Lankans bears are wild things that get spotted occasionally in Yala and other jungle areas. They're brown, can be vicious, they move fast and they don't like posing for photographs.

But, as a kid who was brought up in the UK, I have a different view of bears. The best bear of all time is obviously Winnie The Pooh, before Disney got its hands on him, as everyone knows. As a child I was a devoted follower of the intricate stories that unfolded in 100 acre wood, I felt Eeyore's sadness with him and I envied Christopher Robin's idyllic existence.

I never appreciated AA Milne's poetry that much. "Now we are six" and "When we were very young" were interesting but I'd scan through them desperately looking for a poem or two about Winnie the Pooh to no avail. These days I take some small pleasure in the tenuously linked fact that my covers band does "When we were young" the song by The Killers.

But the stories of Pooh and the other inhabitants of 100 acre wood continually fascinated me. I remember going to Winnie the Pooh pantomimes at Christmas, it seems as if I went for many years in a row but I guess it can only have been two or three at the maximum.

Then, along came that other great bear. No, not the gay one in the yellow chequered trousers, I'm talking about a proper bear here, one who continually got into scrapes, who had an air of pathos about him, who every boy wanted as a friend. Yes, all the way from darkest Peru; Paddington Bear.

I read all of his books and followed his every move. When they were small I tried to get my daughters interested in him, but there was no violence in the stories, there were no computerised graphics and there were no screaming guitars and they moved on quickly. It didn't matter too much, I still have the books somewhere and they're from that phase when I wanted to write my name in everything so each book has got my name in the front section written about 50 times.

When the stories were made into 5 or 10 minute TV programmes I loved them too. Like Fry and Laurie's "Jeeves and Wooster" they were one of the rare attempts where making books into TV actually did justice to the originals.

And one of Paddington's most important traits, one of his trademarks was his fondness for marmalade sandwiches. I strongly suspect that marmalade sales went up considerably after Paddington arrived from darkest Peru. Up until then marmalade was something that parents ate and we saw on the tables in hotels. All of a sudden there were kids like me trying the stuff and liking it.

Paddington lived on Marmalade sandwiches. He carried a little suitcase around with him with a marmalade sandwich in it in case of emergency. Marmalade to him was what honey was to Pooh.

You can imagine my dismay, my sense of disappointment and my feeling of betrayal when i was watching TV last night and the advert came on then. It featured Paddington, animated as well as he ever has been and looking as lost and as good as he always has. But, he was eating a sandwich with cheese and Marmite in it.


I kid you not.

He's sold out, he's advertising Marmite.

Personally I love the stuff. I think the whole way it has been marketed in recent years is brilliant, the whole "you either love it or hate it" thing has been executed superbly and has probably done wonders for its sales. I sometimes think that my dream woman would be one who tasted of Marmite and looked like Jennifer Aniston.

But that doesn't mean that Paddington should have sold his soul. First and foremost he's a marmalade loving bear.

First Winnie the Pooh became a Disney character and now Paddington has become a billboard. This has gone too far. What's next? Yogi advertising Jelly? Baloo extolling the virtues of Centreparcs?

Give us back our childhoods please.


R said...

Lol...that was hilarious.

You might want to read this. It's about Pooh and Taoism.


Ravana said...

[Applause]. Loved this post.

If you feel that strongly about the ad, maybe you should write to Unilever and tell them you can't bear it. Ahem.

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

r + ravana - thanks for your laughter and applause. I'm contamplating my next move now!

Gowri said...

Ha Ha that was really funny.
I dont know maybe I am a wicked person or what I really think that Pooh is a realy wierdo. ( do not ask how why) Maybe its because of being stuck with toddlers who watch re runs of the bugger. But i tell u I hate pooh bear and barney.