I imagine that the initial pitch to Channel 4 for the series The Secret Life of Four, Five and Six Year Olds must have been cautiously handled. However, watching children for a unique insight into how they interact with one another is hilarious and amazing, and I absolutely loved this programme.
A remake of Channel 4’s hugely successful docu-series where a group of about ten five-year-olds are filmed at school, this new two-part revival focuses on how gender stereotypes are inflicted upon children, even at such a young age. In the first episode boys and girls are separated and given various tasks to do to see if they share reactions. Child psychology experts observe the videos in another room and analyse the reasons behind their behaviour. I promise it’s less creepy than it sounds.
Fascinatingly, we do see a huge difference between the boys and the girls. For example, at one point the teacher gives each child lemonade lemonade, but secretly adds salt to it. The boys are all quick to say “yuck” and make disgusted faces – however, the girls are very tactful and say they really enjoy it. One girl says afterwards that she only said that to “make Kate happy”, and watching her earnest little face is just saddening.
The ways the programme went about exploring gender stereotypes was slightly disappointing, and couldn’t help but make me feel like the programme itself was perpetuating the very stereotypes it claimed to be attempting to disparage. The boys were asked to run like girls, and proceeded to flounce about, waving their arms and shrieking. However, my heart did swell when the girls were asked to run like girls and went on to charge at full speed.
We can learn a lot from these children, and relate to them. They are incredibly loving towards one another, without the fear of looking silly that comes with age. However, when one little boy was disheartened because he felt responsible for his team losing, there is a clear knock to his confidence. Despite the common belief that a child’s life is carefree, we can see that they (and therefore we) experience things like jealousy and a desire to make others happy from a very young age.
I would also definitely recommend watching the 2015 version of the show. The children weren’t given such specific purposeful tasks, and them being left to their own devices resulted in some very funny lines and adorable, meme-able moments. So watch this – it is by far the best programme I’ve seen in a long time.
Image: North Charleston @ Flickr