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.

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
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.

    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
    Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy