The strip in question - Si Co - features a young schoolboy called Simon Coe who is, well, just an angry child really. In these stories Mr. Coe generally loses his rag in the usual comic-book fashion over all sorts of subjects, such as receiving a Dandy instead of a Beano from the newsagent who had, in fact, wrapped the latter within the former to protect it from the rain.
All of these evil dastardly goings-on are, according to the campaigners, prejudiced against children with “mental” and “behavioural” problems and encourages other children to “mock or poke fun at” them.
It is important to note that, apart from the play on words in the title, at no point does the strip actually suggest that some kind of mental disorder is at work. As a spokesman for The Beano has pointed out: “He is just a guy who over-reacts dramatically to the annoyances in life that niggle us all.” One would hasten to suggest that the inane warbling of these campaigners is another of those annoyances for Mr. Coe to get annoyed about.
I read with interest a quote by Marjorie Wallace of the mental health charity SANE: “Laughing at people who behave in a strange way which is not their fault may cause incredible hurt.” One feels that she has hit a very large nail on the head (sadly, not her own). The only people who are behaving oddly are those who think a character in a children’s comic is going to set back the fight against mental health discrimination by decades. So, yes, Marjorie Wallace, we are indeed all laughing - at you and your fellow campaigners.
What is even more disheartening is how anger is being classified as a “behavioural problem” or “mental disorder”. If I ever lost my temper when I was a child I was simply told to “shut up” by my parents and banned from watching television for a week, which seemed to do the trick. At no point was I, or any of my chums for that matter, ever diagnosed with some kind of mental or behavioural dysfunction. It was simply known as “sulking” or having “shit on the liver”. I do recall a time when the television punishment didn’t work, however. I can’t remember what I’d actually done but it must’ve been serious because after my father had finished with me I never did whatever it was again.
God forbid should anyone have suggested that I’d performed the greatest of sins by reading copies of The Beano under the bedclothes and been influenced by the terrible deeds of Dennis when he really was a menace. Yes, even he is now nothing more than a softy and a pale imitation of his former self - possibly another of Marjorie Wallace and her army of campaigners’ victims. In the 70s and 80s Dennis was behaving far worse than Simon Coe, and no-one batted an eyelid.
So if Simon Coe is such a bad influence on society then why are there no campaigners claiming that Minnie The Minx misrepresents flirtatious young women, Billy Whiz makes a mockery out of professional athletics, and a spiky black dog with a huge abnormal grin is giving people with false teeth a bad press?
I happened to grow up with The Beano and used to read it religiously. Little did my elders know how it was gradually sending me off the rails. It’s why Matron became locked in the stationery cupboard and Teacher ended up in the classroom dustbin with his trousers round his head during Latin.