I am rapidly losing faith in Mr Tumble. No, I’m not part of some sort of bizarre religious sect which worships children’s entertainer Justin Fletcher, but I am a former superfan who is having his patience and devotion severely tested.
For the uninitiated (i.e. those without small children in their family), Fletcher is a kids TV phenomenon. He came to prominence a few years back through Something Special, a Cbeebies show that not only catered for children with additional needs, but normalised that group among the rest of the child population. It was – and remains – one of the most important and beautiful shows in kids’ television history.
After rising to unlikely fame, Fletcher followed the show up with Gigglebiz, a comedy sketch show for small people in which he played all the major characters. No massive shock there; he’s an entertainer, and builds shows around his huge personality. The show was funnier than a lot of grown up comedy programmes, and again proved popular with the key early years demographic.
Then, Justin announced his next project – an ambitious attempt to reboot the flagging weekend morning format that once made Britain’s streets a ghost town at certain times. The show, Justin’s House, would feature Fletcher and various guest stars performing live in front of a studio audience of pre-schoolers. And here’s where the problems start.
Each episode of the show is almost entirely focused on Justin. He’s both the ringmaster and the star act of his own circus. References to his name abound – from the title song, which the audience sing along to, to the name of his local newspaper, ‘The Justin Times’. Everything is about him.
Things have got worse with the new second series, with the removal of one of his two regular co-stars (presumably she was stealing too much attention) and the insertion of another song which appears every week. The subject? You’ve guessed it – “J-J-J-J-J-JUSTIN!” One wonders what exactly he is compensating for.
It seems to me that Fletcher is suffering from a lack of perspective, and probably, wise counsel. You might speculate that his ego has ballooned out of control, but if that is the case, I have some sympathy.
When I was at University, I was given the chance to become Editor of the student newspaper. I went to a collegiate institution, and people from my fairly lowly college just didn’t get opportunities like that. It felt like a miracle, but I had to work for it- long hours followed, and I rarely had a chance to see my friends. When I did have an evening off, I went to swanky events at the Union society, where they at last welcomed a man of my increased status. I barely saw my housemates during that term, but one night, near the end of my editorship, I deigned to grace them with my presence.
I’ll never forget that walk to the chip shop. The two of them – the two friends who I had spent the best part of four years stuck to like glue – pretty much disassembled my flawed character. I had become smug, arrogant, egotistical, unpleasant… and I hadn’t noticed any of it. I was horrified. They were good friends. They changed the course of my life through that lecture.
Perhaps Justin is too famous and powerful now to find people willing to give that kind of stinging critique in love. Ultimately though, that’s his problem. My horror at watching Justin’s House with my kids (who will grow up thinking self-centredness is ace) should only lead me to turn a mirror on myself. Why am I writing a blog with my own name and photograph at the top? Where have I lost the plot and allowed vanity to cloud my self-reflection?
This story is unfortunately common in our culture. Fame – even miniscule amounts like getting to edit a newspaper or captain a sporting team – can go to our heads fast. I can think – for pertinent instance – of more than a few church leaders who have built their very own ‘Justin’s House’. How do we fight this natural, sinful metamorphosis? By remembering we’re not the centre of the Universe; by focussing our lives on loving God and loving others. The alternative might be the empty ring of people chanting our name, but ultimately we know that doesn’t satisfy.
Pride comes before a fall (or in this case, not being humble could lead to a Tumble). If anyone in a position of leadership or influence thinks that isn’t the case, then call me when you need a hand getting to your feet. An inflated ego has a toxic effect on our relationships, on our influence and productivity, but also on ourselves. It’s a daily battle, but it’s one worth fighting. And if after all that, your dream is still to have your own TV show, where everything is about you and hordes of screaming children chant your name… please seek help immediately.