In the course of his essay, he opined that, 'in these over-sensitive times, the Beano's greatest creation, the rascally schoolboy Dennis the Menace - who has just turned 60 - is not as much fun as he used to be'.He added:
"As Dennis the Menace, Britain’s one-boy delinquency advancement programme, enjoyed a landmark birthday last week, it was hard to escape the sense that it is time to get the slipper back out.Interesting that the rise of real delinquency, typified by gang murder and gang rape in Britain's inner cities, should have occurred just as Dennis was being neutered by the PC Crowd, isn't it?
Or that on the receiving end of it should be the current custodians of the spiky-haired reprobate, who, in a distinguished 60-year career largely devoted to persecuting Walter the Softie, has brought joy to generations of children. ‘It’s my party,’ cries a smiling Menace from the cover of the latest issue of the Beano, ‘and you’re all invited.’
Love to be there, Dennis, but how much fun would it really be? Especially now that Gnasher, the fearsome, black-fleeced tripe hound, isn’t allowed to bite anybody; the cake can’t blow up in case it sends the wrong message about explosives to young readers; and Walter is liable to turn up with Matilda, the girlfriend they’ve given him to counter suggestions that he might be gay?
In these over-sensitive times, the honourable art of menacing is, itself, menaced. Most of us might agree that firing catapults at park-keepers, while not necessarily to be encouraged, is better than sniffing Brasso behind the bus shelter. But AN AIRBRUSHED, BUBBLE-WRAPPED DEPICTION OF CHILDHOOD IS INCREASINGLY DEMANDED BY TV AND MUCH OF THE PUBLISHING BUSINESS, AND DENNIS HAS BECOME A PRIME VICTIM.
It goes without saying that he can’t be slippered any more. In the old days almost every episode ended with a spanking – administered by his irate, pinstripe-suited father or, on occasion, by the Menace’s redoubtable granny, wielding an elephant hide ‘Demon Whacker’.
To the millions of children who avidly followed Dennis’s adventures in the strip’s heyday, the beatings sent two clear messages. One was that MISBEHAVIOUR HAD CONSEQUENCES. The other was that corporal punishment was obviously futile. Far from mending his ways, Dennis merely became more ingenious in the pursuit of naughtiness. With a little imagination, this might have been worked to the readers’ advantage, but THE MODERN STRIP TOOK THE EASY ROUTE AND ABANDONED FIRST THE SLIPPER, THEN ANY FORM OF RECOGNISABLE PUNISHMENT AT ALL.
Not that today’s Dennis does anything terribly bad. In the Beano’s current birthday edition, his mother bakes a lavish birthday cake, which Gnasher jumps on, splurting the next-door-neighbour and a passing policeman with filling.
The atrocities and humiliations heaped upon bow-tied Walter, owner of a pink poodle called Foo-Foo, have largely ceased…
When Dennis was turned into a TV cartoon, the image-softening was taken even further. Now THE DE-FANGED MENACE WAS RELIEVED OF HIS PEASHOOTER, CATAPULT AND WATER PISTOL, TO MEET BBC ‘COMPLIANCE’ RULES. HIS TRADEMARK FEATURES WERE MADE CHUBBIER, HIS EYES ENLARGED AND HIS SCOWL REPLACED BY A CUTESY GRIN.
What is left? Along with some precious memories, and wry reflections on the changing nature of British society, there’s the remarkable story of how Dennis the Menace became the most popular children’s cartoon character of the post-war era.
He came to life in early 1951, when George Moonie, the Beano’s editor, demanded a new character… The comic’s artist, David Law, and chief sub-editor, Ian Chisholm, were given the job, and, in a pub, the idea took shape: Dennis would be aged about 10, have knobbly knees and black, raggedy hair, and be the naughtiest boy in Britain.
The idea was not to encourage bad behaviour, but to present it with humour as a natural consequence of childhood and show that it usually ends in tears. Dennis was an immediate hit, quickly becoming the Beano’s biggest draw and landing a coveted two-page colour slot.
It should stand to reason that small boys won’t stone park-keepers because Dennis does, any more than grown men would shave with a blow torch like Desperate Dan. DC Thomson protests that it has merely taken some of the ‘nastiness’ out of the old character, and made him look more modern. But among those who lament the changes in Dennis is Law’s daughter, Rosemary Moffat, who says her father would be ‘horrified’…
Like much else that has vanished in the 60 years since Dennis first went a-menacing, the spectre of the twitching slipper has gone. DELINQUENCY, THOUGH, IS STILL WITH US AND, SADLY, IT EXISTS MORE IN THE REAL WORLD THAN THE CARTOON ONE."
I remember an issue of The Beano where Dennis had a dog. (Before Gnasher) He thought he'd have some fun by giving it a series of risqué names. So, when he saw a lot of bald men walking down the street, Dennis yelled out 'Baldie'! And his dog came running - with a lot of bald men in hot pursuit.
And when he yelled out 'N****'! The dog came running, with a lot of black men in hot pursuit.
Ah, for those long, lost days of childhood innocence, where mass immigration, the race laws, racism, bigotry, diversity, difference, cohesion, enrichment and the Multicult were just a twinkle in the eye of a Brit-loathing PC Crowd.