Mum's anger at 'dangerous' Peppa Pig episode

Peppa Pig and Mr Skinny Legs.
Peppa Pig and Mr Skinny Legs. Photo: YouTube

It is the Peppa Pig episode restricted by the ABC five years ago because of the dangerous way it depicts spiders. But the offending Mr Skinny Legs episode was aired on Foxtel last week and Nickelodeon defended the decision to run it.

During the episode Peppa and George pick up and play with the spider while Daddy Pig assures them: "Spiders are very very small. And they can't hurt you".

Sydney mum Jess was watching television with her young daughter on Friday 25 August at 10am when the episode screened on Nick Jr.

"It came on and I thought, 'Is this the (restricted) episode I'm thinking of?" Jess (who did not want her surname revealed) told Essential Baby. "It was, so I turned it off." 

In 2012, after a viewer complained that the episode was "inappropriate for an Australian audience because it said that spiders were not to be feared", the ABC declared that it had been deemed unsuitable for broadcast in Australia and had been aired by mistake.

"It had been restricted from being aired on the ABC's television networks," the broadcaster said at the time."However, the episode was accidentally published online due to a technical problem."

In Mr Skinny Legs, George finds a spider in the bathroom sink and puts him to bed in Peppa's dolls' house.

"It's too scary, take it away," says Peppa when she sees Mr Skinny Legs.

"There's no need to be afraid Peppa," Daddy Pig reassures her.  

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We then see the family having a tea party with Mr Skinny Legs, both children shown picking the spider up by his web.

"Peppa and George like the spider," the narrator says at the end of the episode. "Everyone likes Mr Skinny Legs."

Concerned about the message Mr Skinny Legs sends to children about spiders, Jess made a complaint to Foxtel, who passed it onto Nickelodeon on her behalf.

But the response left her fuming.

"Nickelodeon has sent me an email that they're going to still play the episode because apparently the spider looks friendly and it's in a friendly environment" Jess says. "And the safety of children comes on the parents and it's not their responsibility."

In the emailed response the mother-of-one received on 29 August, Nickelodeon Australia Management wrote:

"The Episode was classified G by Nickelodeon. Content classified G may contain classifiable elements that are very mild in impact. The Episode is light-hearted, friendly and very mild in impact; the overarching message of the Episode is about respecting all creatures and it is considered that impact of the storyline and the themes of the Episode do not exceed the G classification."

The Nickelodeon spokesperson also noted that Mr Skinny Legs had not been banned in Australia by any regulatory body.

"Nickelodeon made its own programming decision to keep the Episode on air," the email reads.

"The context of the way the spider is portrayed in the episode lessens any impact of scariness or danger; the spider does not look real, it has a smiley face and is shown in context of a show with other talking animals and therefore in an environment where the animals and creatures are not shown acting out their real nature.

Noting that Nick Jr is "known to be a safe environment for children", the spokesperson adds, "as a commercial children's entertainment network, Nickelodeon Australia takes its responsibilities to children and their families very seriously and regrets any unintentional offence caused to you as a result of the broadcast of the Episode."

Jess noted that while her daughter is "too young to understand," like many parents, she often has Peppa Pig playing in the background. Her younger brother also watches the popular animated series.

"My little brother has autism. And a lot of kids will see it on TV and think 'Oh I can do that because monkey see monkey do'" she says.

"They literally pick up the spider and go play with it."

When contacted by Essential Baby, a Nickelodeon spokesperson advised that they had reconsidered their initial decision to continue screening Mr Skinny Legs and would no longer air the episode.

"Nick Jr. prides itself in creating a safe environment for its audience and bases all programming decisions upon internal guidelines in accordance with all Australian regulatory and legal obligations," they said in a statement. "While the episode does meet our criteria, after careful consideration we have made the programming decision to remove it from the Nick Jr. rotation."

It's not the first time Peppa Pig has come under fire. Last year, an Australian expert said the popular series was damaging children's emotional development, resulting in kids losing their ability to use their imagination and show empathy.