Oh dear - everyone's being nice

PHEW. IT turns out that Kevin the hamster lives after all. The darling little rodent - portrayed in a TV advertisement scurrying away adorably on his little wheel, then, in a cruel joke that shocked the nation, apparently stiff and dull-coated, an ex-rodent - has at last been revealed to be just fine. The 500 viewers who wrote tearfully to the Advertising Standards Authority can relax. Everything is going to be all right.

There, there.

Suddenly kiddy values are all the rage. Last week's adaptation of Michelle Magorian's Goodnight Mr Tom, an excellent children's story which ITV commissioned for its children's slot, was instead put out as an adult play - and gained the highest ratings for any one-off drama since 1991.

TV executives are said to be more hungry than ever for stories that contain the warmth of The Darling Buds of May, the unthreatening, positive values of Dad's Army or Cheers - escapist, soft-focus, feel-good tales that can compete with Animal Hospital, Heartbeat and Where the Heart Is.

The trend is apparently international. After the success of the gooey tear-jerker Titanic, Hollywood producers have decided that the formula for successful feature movies and TV series is simple: they should appeal to the dewy-eyed 15-year-old schoolgirl in us all.

Unfortunately, real 15-year-olds live in the heart of teenage darkness, and are rather less goofily sentimental that adults would wish.

So, screen-led as ever, government advisers have suggested that, as part of her girl power initiative, Margaret Jay should set up a panel of role-model celebrities. The UN emissary Ginger Spice would probably be in its number, and that sweet, pearly-toothed Carol Smillie, maybe even Ffion Hague - in fact, anyone acceptably young, famous and positive who aspires to the sort of acceptable female sainthood embodied by those contemporary icons, Diana, Princess of Wales and Linda McCartney.

So it's official. Niceness is nice. Goodness is good. Now that we have all been in touch with our inner children, we are being invited to relax into a playground mentality, where feeling is everything and thought is suspect.

You will have spotted the catch. The more we are told to be nice, the more we care about Kevin, and Rolf Harris and his injured cats, the more we blub in front of the latest nostalgic drama - the nastier the world outside seems to become. Yobs glass air stewardesses. The tawdriest bedroom secrets of the famous clog up the features pages. Respected commentators self-importantly "out" cabinet ministers on TV. Programmes like Have I Got News For You prefer giggling character smears to any kind of political satire. Confession shows single out the unhappy social inadequates for public ridicule. By turns sentimental and sadistic, the press are hooked on causing pain to those in public life: where once journalists used to report tragedy, they now set out to cause it.

Because there are two sides to playground values those determined to promote socially acceptable niceness need also to establish a cordon sanitaire to protect the rest of us from the roaring, unruly elements outside the school wall. People who do not conform must be excluded or bullied until they fit in.

Sometimes the bullying is pathetically censorious: this weekend the Health Education Council, while attacking the brilliant poet Tony Harrison for daring to make a film defending freedom, including the freedom to smoke, revealed that since 1990 it had been making a note of films with inappropriate attitudes towards smoking.

One day, the council promised, the directors and actors would all be named and shamed.

The result is not more charity or kindness or positive values, but less. The nation that last year congratulated itself on showing the world how to mourn, boasted of being a people in touch with itself, leads the rest of Europe in divorce, in teenage crime and in the number of young people we keep incarcerated in jails.

Mobs howl for revenge outside courtrooms. A woman who has served 32 years in prison and clearly represents no threat to society is told that she must end her days there because the press has turned her into a reviled hate-figure. Some of those released from prison have to be kept in police custody to protect them from caring parents who hound them from town to town.

Doubtless these pillars of the community then go home to watch a heart- warming feel-good drama, all the while keeping a careful eye out for unacceptable attitudes towards hamsters during the advertising breaks.

It's all very strange.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Arts and Entertainment
Umar Ahmed and Kiran Sonia Sawar in ‘My Name Is...’
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
This year's Big Brother champion Helen Wood
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Full company in Ustinov's Studio's Bad Jews
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Harari Guido photographed Kate Bush over the course of 11 years
Music
Arts and Entertainment
Reviews have not been good for Jonathan Liebesman’s take on the much loved eighties cartoon
Film

A The film has amassed an estimated $28.7 million in its opening weekend

Arts and Entertainment
Untwitterably yours: Singer Morrissey has said he doesn't have a twitter account
Music

A statement was published on his fansite, True To You, following release of new album

Arts and Entertainment
Full throttle: Philip Seymour Hoffman and John Turturro in God's Pocket
film
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie Minogue is expected to return to Neighbours for thirtieth anniversary special
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
    Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

    But could his predictions of war do the same?
    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

    Young at hort

    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

    Beyond a joke

    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

    A wild night out

    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve