Audiences and Loneliness

Occasional Series: Lessons from Children’s Literature. Oliver Jeffers’ ‘Lost and Found’

Lost and Found: A friendship between a boy and a penguin

Oliver Jeffers wrote a beautiful story for small children called Lost and Found.  It has been made into a nice short cartoon, but my children prefer the book.

It tells the story of a boy in a seaside town who is befriended by a penguin who turns up at his door. The boy assumes that it is lost, so tries to find out where he has come from.  In the end he takes the penguin back to the South Pole and sails off. He then feels a little bereft. And realises that the penguin had become his friend not because he was lost, but because he was lonely.

The boy returns to the South Pole only to discover that the penguin has set off to find him again.  When they meet and hug, it is the most touching rendezvous since Bobbie’s father returned in a cloud of steam at the end of The Railway Children.


What has this got to do with television?

We sometimes look at TV programmes and wonder why one programme is successful and one is not.  I’ve wondered before why The Great British Bake Off took off, but Love Your Garden (for instance) hasn’t.  You can analyse the content to the tiniest degree, the presenters, the theme music and so on to try to work it out.  But overall you are better off looking at the audience and trying to understand what is in it for them.  How does it answer their needs.  The penguin’s motivation for being with the boy is the same as the reason why we watch television.  It’s because we are lonely.

We may also be like tiny dots cast into an impossibly vast, brutal universe and looking for some sort of purpose to it all, but I think our need for company trumps our need for intellectual or geographical direction.

The need to fit in, to have something to talk about, to connect with the world we live in, to laugh and cry with others… to remind us about when we were children and so on, … are fundamental to who we are.  Young people watch television to enhance their social life and to learn how to fit in with others… to help make them feel better.  The middle aged like to watch together in a cosy nest. And many older viewers watch TV to replace a social life that they have lost.

Next Time. PC McGarry (number 452) from Camberwick Green explains why TV is like a box, a music box, wound up and ready to play, and hiding a secret



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