lashings of poisonous snakes crawling round
July 16, 2017 5:19 PM   Subscribe

The Famous Five turn 75

The Famous Five Series 1995/1997[youtube playlist] some of which feature Kirrin Island (based on Brownsea Island) where Mrs Mary Bonham-Christie employed 'a blonde and powerful female Scandinavian PT instructor to throw visitors off the island'. [previously]
posted by unliteral (19 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I always felt like a class traitor for reading the books.
posted by Artw at 5:25 PM on July 16 [9 favorites]

In 2012, we reported here that London-based Kindle Entertainment, makers of the critically acclaimed CBBC show Leonardo were to turn Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five into a time travel show, with some press reports suggesting both BBC and Sky were interested in the series, but the proposed project seems to be in limbo.

What in the shit?
posted by Artw at 5:28 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]

Also on YouTube: Five Go Mad In Dorset

...I watched this again recently with some Americans not familiar with the milieu it's taking the piss out of and they were super confused.
posted by Artw at 5:30 PM on July 16 [11 favorites]

Famous Five taught me to never trust circuses and / or gypsies
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:44 PM on July 16 [2 favorites]

I always felt like a class traitor for reading the books.

They were truly repulsive books in so many ways, but so immensely soothing that they exerted a powerful draw upon me for a number of years. I think my parents justified leaving them (tbf along with about a thousand other children's books harvested from three generations of my family) on my shelves by telling me how racist, sexist and classist they were at every opportunity. Given that this was taking place in 1980s Cornwall, where the attitudes of the Five towards anyone even remotely different from themselves would have gone unremarked, save, perhaps, for noting their rather progressive take on things, I think that my parents' precaution was a wise one.
posted by howfar at 6:05 PM on July 16 [3 favorites]

I just wanted to drop this book review that made me more excited for a novel than I've been in a while: Meddling Kids -- about "what it must've been like to be an actual child trapped in a dungeon with the monsters outside scratching to get in, and of the psychic price paid by those who battle monsters."

Mystery-solving kid stories were one of the first tropes that made me realize the existence of tropes, that made me start to question narrative, when I was eight or so. I didn't understand how kids could get into so much grownup business, or even get out of the house so much.
posted by Countess Elena at 6:08 PM on July 16 [5 favorites]

, said unliteral.
posted by zamboni at 6:12 PM on July 16

...I watched this again recently with some Americans not familiar with the milieu it's taking the piss out of and they were super confused.

That's surprising, given the number of variations on that theme scattered throughout twentieth-century American children's/YA literature and pop culture, varying mostly in terms of how many kids, whether or not they had an animal companion, and whether or not that companion was sentient. That's what Stephen King's IT is all about; it even includes the fast-forward-to-their-complicated-messy-and-vastly-less-satisfying-adult-lives aspect that is also shown in Five Go to Rehab.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:33 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]

That's surprising, given the number of variations on that theme scattered throughout twentieth-century American children's/YA literature and pop culture,

I think the issue is probably the particular theme being mocked by the Comic Strip wasn't really the "intrepid children foil dastardly plot while skirting the edges of adult control" aspect of the Famous Five, which is as ubiquitous as you note. Rather, most of the jokes are aimed at more specific targets.

The cruel, blind privilege of white, middle-class English people, to whom working-class people are either mindless good-hearted drones who lavish them with unearned bounties, or dangerous traitors who have rejected their place in the natural order of things. The degrading and all pervading misogyny that the main characters either inflict or accept. The belief that everyone non-white or non-English is fundamentally alien and untrustworthy, and only capable of becoming anything but an enemy by rejecting their family and community in favour of slavish devotion to an English master. The whole gamut of stinking imperialist bullshit that has clogged and befouled the English psyche for generations. I think it's these things that are being satirised.
posted by howfar at 7:05 PM on July 16 [7 favorites]

Jolly good!
posted by Jubey at 7:51 PM on July 16 [2 favorites]

Imogen wasn’t so much treated to lashings of ginger beer as aloofness and emotional neglect.

That reporting is the real outrage here.
posted by No-sword at 10:48 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]

I love those books. They are mostly responsible for my reading addiction. It's true what they say: "start a kid reading early and they'll be readers for life" or something like that.

I was lucky, my family had a complete set of those books (along with many other series of books) and I didn't have to wait for library copies. I inhaled those stories, couldn't get enough.
posted by james33 at 5:49 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]

*smiling at howfar*
posted by glasseyes at 7:16 AM on July 17

My mum - no kneejerk lefty but an enthusiast of children's fiction - wouldn't have them in house when I was a kid on the grounds of their general moral and political turpitude. My wife read them as a child and let our kids read them, and sure enough they loved them.

I think my least favourite bit is when the Five lock some kidnappers' kids in a cellar to teach them not to be working class rotters.

(But it doesn't seem to have affected my daughter who was outraged when Aslan sent the girls away in order to talk serious stuff with the boys, and demanded that CS Lewis be sent to prison.)
posted by Mocata at 7:28 AM on July 17 [7 favorites]

When I was a kid there was a dog that looked just like Timmy who we'd often see running around the local park. My friend and I (both fans of the books) named him Timmy and it caught on. One day Timmy the Dog was joined by his owner who was quite bewildered to see hordes of kids yelling "Timmy! Timmy!" and joyfully galloping around with his dog. Poor man kept saying "But his name is Malcolm!" I guess he never read the books...
posted by kitten magic at 4:38 PM on July 17

CS Lewis, that's a whole other conversation...

(Generally I'm good with Wardrobe and The Magicians Nephew but some of the others go rapidly off the tracks..)
posted by Artw at 4:41 PM on July 17

Enid Blyton wasn't much of a mother surprisingly enough.

Some time in the 1950s my father was interviewed by her for a gardening job. It went well until it emerged that under no circumstances would she employ anyone with children.
posted by Fuchsoid at 5:21 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]

So JUST NOW I realized that Enid Blyton and Enid Bagnold were totally different people. (Also not to be confused with this Enid.)
posted by maudlin at 9:18 PM on July 17

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