Mr Nonsense and Little Miss Ridiculous

09 May 2018 | Jess Seal

I was watching Piers and Susanna on Good Morning Britain this morning (that’s right, I’m a GMB girl!), whilst getting ready for work. I like to listen to the headlines about what’s going on in the world – that is my job after all.

To start off with, it was the usual culprits; a politician, a woman trying to make a million squid through her 2-year-old child, you know the deal. But the headline that really did make me put down my Nespresso Coffee (posh right?) and concentrate solely on the television, was that my beloved childhood books Mr Men and Little Miss, have been branded as sexist by a university study!

According to the University of Lincoln, Roger Hargreaves’ well-known characters confirm to patriarchal gender roles, with more than half the stories showing a Little Miss being saved. The study revealed that Little Misses were saved in 51.5 per cent of stories, with males saved in just 32.6 per cent. The study also revealed that the female characters are portrayed as ‘less powerful’ and get this (you may need to sit down for this one!),male characters get on average 12 extra words than females!

Firstly, I want to ask...don’t these researchers have anything better to do with their time than read through Little Miss and Mr Men books to find out how many times the women were saved compared to men? Surely, we have bigger equal rights issues to deal with than male characters in a children’s book having more lines than female characters? Seriously, is talking about Little Miss and Mr Men really going to help the issue that there are more people called David in the FTSE 100 than there are women? I don’t think so!

When I was a kid, my friends and I were all likened to a Mr Men or Little Miss character. I was Little Miss Chatter Box (obvs), my brother, Mr Lazy, my cousin Little Miss Naughty, you get the idea. There is a Mr and Little Miss for everyone and that’s what, in my opinion, made it so inclusive. When you’re a child you don’t even think about gender. You just pick a character and role with it, and that’s how it should be. Bringing light to the issue (or lack of issue), is what makes it an issue in the first place!

When the research was revealed earlier in the week, Twitter really did kick off, with plenty of people, like me, disagreeing with the study. Channel 5 TV show, The Wright Stuff posted the study to their 108k followers, and the news even hit ‘down under’ with the Today Show sharing a feature from its morning show about the study to its 427k followers.

Now, I don’t think this has done much in terms of PR for University of Lincoln (you may disagree), but it certainly has got the Mr Men and Little Miss books out there.

But the question is: is it good or bad PR? At first glance, of course it’s bad PR. The study talks about the books in such a negative way. But, the response on Twitter, in the press, on TV shows, all supporting the books and not the study has really brought to life these wonderful childhood stories. The debate has reminded children and adults of all ages of the fabulous stories and hopefully, in turn, encouraging people to buy their next issue!

Today would have been Roger Hargreaves’ 83rd birthday, so if you think the University of Lincoln need to get out more…why not buy yourself a Little Miss or Mr Men book?