EVERYTHING IRIE: The Easy Crew
THE LAST 12 months have been pivotal for Rastamouse.
The patois speaking, skateboard riding, crime solving character has made it through the nationwide controversy and is cemented in the hearts and minds of children around the world.
Currently in its second series on the Cbeebies channel, the programme has ensured Rastamouse and the Easy Crew’s place on the international stage, as the show will soon air in France, Canada, Latin America, Africa, Israel, Greece, Australia and Cyprus. Happy with the success of his creation, writer Michael De Souza says Rastamouse is the truth and he is here to stay.
“Sometimes it’s very difficult for people to accept a new truth,” said the 58-year-old. “And the truth is, something different is coming on television now. The language that is spoken on the street is coming on telly, the diversity that we talk about is coming to life and it’s the new truth.”
Last year, Rastamouse became the most complained about children’s show of 2011, receiving 213 complaints with accusations of racial serotypes, and calls for the programme to be scrapped. Yet in the same year the cartoon won a BAFTA nomination for the best Pre-School Animation and also became the most-watched CBeebies show on the BBC’s iPlayer. Aware of the public hullabaloo, De Souza believes people should focus on the positive message of Rastamouse.
“I don’t understand how people were outraged. They didn’t look at the message, which was very clear; you’re ‘making a bad ting good’. As I say people can’t face certain truths, Rasta is always going to be controversial, he has to explain himself. The fact that he’s a rasta isn’t the problem, it’s other peoples’ perception that is the problem.”
Strenuously denying the fact that he would portray any racial stereotypes, De Souza said that he has probably faced more prejudice in his lifetime than many of his critics.
“Who on earth has the right to tell me what’s stereotyped? Nobody! I’ve been in England since 1960, I know the country inside out and I know myself inside out and I’m certainly not going to be supporting something that doesn’t make sense,” the Rastamouse creator argued.
SPEAKING THE TRUTH: Rastamouse creator Michael De Souza
“So for black people to come and tell me that I’ve been out of order, I would tell them that I’ve faced prejudice and been through many things. I’m certainly not going to present something to the public that hasn’t been thought through,” he added.
Whether you love it or hate it, De Souza has introduced the world to Rastafarianism, albeit a subdued version.
“I think it has made a difference without a doubt. It has put the word rasta on more peoples tongue and it’s just about trying to get people to be more respectful beings,” DeSouza noted.
As the author outlined, it’s about makin’ a bad ting good. Diverting from his job as a qualified swimming instructor De Souza wanted to make a difference with his books, but he had no idea how popular his idea would be.
“We wanted it to do well, but how well, we didn’t put a cap on it, we wanted people to embrace Rastamouse and get it in their psyche because we were trying to revolutionise certain things and get rid of things that weren’t helping anybody, certainly not the target audience.”
Since launching Rastamouse in 2005 with co-creator Genevieve Webster, De Souza admitted that children constantly confuse him with his rodent, but that may change, due to the fact that he is in the process of writing more books and bringing to life new characters. Staying close to home De Souza has created Professor Splash a swimming coach who will teach children how to swim, the fun way.
“I have some new ideas I want to get out there, but controversial groundbreaking characters, there are none in the pipeline.”
To find out more about Rastamouse visit www.rastamouse.com