The anti-immigration propaganda of Aardman’s ‘The Farmer’s Llamas’
Chaos will come to Amazon Prime and BBC One this winter, in Aardman’s The Farmer’s Llamas. A thirty-minute spinoff of family favourite Shaun the Sheep, the Christmas special will air across the UK to a vast audience of children and their parents; many of whom are likely to have grown up themselves with fond memories of Wallace & Gromit and Aardman’s heritage of festive specials. However, this reviewer finds it hard to see past the more problematic messages disguised as fuzzy fun via plasticine figures.
Created by Richard Starzak and directed by Jay Grace, Shaun the Sheep: The Farmer’s Llamas sees an idyllic English setting torn apart by foreign intruders. If you think I’m exaggerating the point, check out this synopsis from Aardman’s official website:
When the Farmer and Bitzer go to a Country Fair, Shaun steals away with them intent on causing mischief. Shaun spies an auction where he sees three exotic and very crafty Llamas going under the hammer. Instantly besotted by their fantastic pranks Shaun cleverly gets the unwitting Farmer to buy them.
Back at Mossy Bottom Farm, Shaun is delighted with his prank and convinces the Flock that the Llamas are just what they need to spice up their lives. At first everything’s great fun, but soon their new Llama room-mates get a bit too comfortable in their new home.
When things spiral out of control, Shaun is forced to take action to oust the intruders and save the farm.
Here are those aggressive ‘intruders’ being chased out by the white, English sheep in the official teaser for the special. The latter might look more at home in pointed white hoods than woollen fleece…
So what’s the big deal?
The problem with The Farmer’s Llamas is its focus on the llamas’ cultural difference; a difference that is negative, inferior, and worst of all, threatening to the ‘English way of life’.
One is forced to question the allegorical message behind a group of odd looking, foreign intruders named Hector, Fernando and Raul causing chaos in an otherwise perfect English country setting, before their being ‘ousted’ sees that peace is restored.
While similarly focussing on Peruvian immigrants to the UK, The Farmer’s Llamas seems a far cry from the inclusive spirit of 2014 family favourite Paddington, which was critically acclaimed for its messages of acceptance for an orphaned Peruvian bear who arrives in London via boat as a refugee. Which is a shame, because the beauty of Shaun the Sheep is its lack of spoken dialogue, making it accessible to and hugely popular amongst audiences all around the world.
We have seen in such examples as the afore mentioned Paddington, and Disney Jr’ hit Doc McStuffins – whose female, African American titular character has inspired countless young viewers to view gender, ethnicity, and/or social background as no obstacle to achieving their dreams – that programming for young audiences can have a considerable impact on the world views of children.
Maybe I’m taking a simple kids’ TV show too seriously. Or maybe, recognising the highly impressionable minds of their primary audience, especially on such mainstream platforms as BBC One and Amazon Prime, the creators of children’s TV need to be more responsible with the deceptively innocuous power they wield.
Shaun the Sheep: The Farmer’s Llamas premieres on Amazon Prime Instant Video UK on November 13th. It will also show on BBC One over the Christmas period.