The Famous Five in the Mystery of Political Correctness

I return to blogging after a month during which I was so frantically busy I had neither the time nor energy to read anything but children’s fiction, and previously-read children’s fiction at that. I revisited my Captain Underpants box set, several Eva Ibbotsens, and my collection of Richmal Crompton’s William books (I own all thirty-eight; make of that what you will). I then picked up one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series. The Famous Five, as most know, are a crime-fighting group consisting of Timmy the prescient dog who unfailingly barks at villains and nuzzles the good guys, junior studmuffin Julian, his brother Dick (I kid you not), their weepy-eyed sister Anne and their cousin George, poster child for serious therapy, failing which a sex-change operation is certainly in her future. The foursome lived in some part of Britain conveniently peppered by caves and smugglers, and were always eating enormous teas and renting caravans in between catching Desperate Criminals Who Had Baffled Scotland Yard.

I loved the series as a child. Twenty years later, the book made me want to rinse my eyes out with Purell. The part where Julian tells a female character the trouble with her is she doesn’t have a brother to “keep her in her place”, I quit reading, and donated the book to my local library. (But now, upon sober reflection, I think I ought to have stamped out its existence completely, ideally by stabbing it with a Basilisk fang.)

I now hear the Famous Five is being relaunched as an animated series. By Disney. With the offspring of the original Four as the lead characters. With a new PC angle. According to this article on the BBC website,

They feature 12-year-old Anglo-Indian Jo, short for Jyoti – a Hindi word meaning light – who, like her mother George [NB: So she got that gender thing sorted, eh?], is a tomboy and the group’s team leader.

Other characters include Allie, a 12-year-old Californian “shopaholic” who enjoys going out and getting “glammed up” but is packed off to the British countryside to live with her cousins.

Her mother was Anne in the Famous Five, a reluctant adventurer who has now  become a successful art dealer.

The team is completed by adventure junkie Max, who is 13-year-old Julian’s son; Dylan, the 11-year-old son of Dick, and dog Timmy.

Famous Five

(Picture from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/7306752.stm)

Back in the days, Blyton’s work had a huge following in the Commonwealth countries; perhaps one of the reasons for introducing Jyoti is an attempt to continue that appeal to the next generation there? I’m really curious to see if the Disney series will do the trick in the Indian market.

7 responses to “The Famous Five in the Mystery of Political Correctness

  1. i stumbled upon your pages quite accidentally, but this writeup is one of the best written reviews i’ve ever read … and such satiric humour needs to be made more public for the generations in India … till the late nineties, Blyton ruled the shelves and minds of kids in India… i know because i grew up in the 80s and 90s.. and today when i look back … yes, its pretty much absurd ..

  2. Chayan: Thanks! Blyton has dated quite badly–hence my curiosity about the revamped series.

  3. Having grown up in the fifties and my kids in the eighties both generations had solid doses of La Blyton. The memories are nothing but pleasant and she certainly could rivet one’s attention and earn the ticket for her roller-coaster.

  4. @ SMRana: I too have plesant memories of Blyton. But her work has not aged well, IMO.

  5. Pingback: An antique treasure by Enid Blyton « Brown Paper

  6. When you mentioned the Just William books recently, I thought I would see what I’d missed as a child. I bought William at War and I’m really enjoying it. I think Crompton is much better than Blyton, although I did love Blyton when I was a wee girl.

  7. @Katrina: Blyton is to Crompton as gumballs are to chocolate. Glad you are enjoying it!

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