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

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May


Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama


Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year


Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before