In lockdown, my daughter is captive to the Wiggles' dark magic – and so am I | Martin McKenzie-Murray

I fucking hate the Wiggles. I hate them like the Montagues hate the Capulets, like Collingwood hate Carlton, like the Bandidos hate the Comancheros. But no, this isn’t quite right. These are competitive binaries – duals practiced by rough equals. That’s not what this is. This is captivity.

As my daughter is captive to the Wiggles, so I am captive to her. My partner tells me to set boundaries. She tells me to be firm. She says to be like the Soviets at Stalingrad. She doesn’t say this last bit, but I can infer it. And what I say is that it’s real easy to suggest gentle assertion against a tiny angel who shits herself six times a day, but, goddammit, her screams are jagged and my psyche thin after months – years? – of lockdown.

Not long ago my daughter and I danced blissfully to all kinds of music. It welded us. It also helped cushion our home, to which we were largely condemned but for our one state-prescribed hour of exercise.

That cushioning was for me. The virus doesn’t exist for my daughter. She doesn’t wonder why Mummy and daddy wear masks, or why there are teddy bears in trees. They just are: like the sun and the birds and the trains that we like to watch noisily pass at the level crossing. These trips replaced playgrounds, which were all taped off like crime scenes.

As I diligently prepared my daughter’s musical palette, we enjoyed ourselves immensely. Oh, how we danced! Me shimmying spasmodically; her stomping her tiny frog-legs and spinning and spinning and spinning until she couldn’t stand, and I felt nauseous just watching her. It was beautiful.

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And it’s over. Maybe forever. That’s how it seems. She no longer respects the authority of Pete Rock or Guru; is now cruelly indifferent to her old pals Aretha Franklin and Joey Ramone. She has become radicalised. Bewitched. The Pied Piper has taken her from me.

I am consumed by hatred, but like a passionate lover I am also knowledgable about my tormentors’ subtleties: Emma’s change in hairstyle and makeup circa 2015; Anthony’s avoidance of lead vocals; Simon’s gradual comfort with the Whirly Bird dance.

Then there are the questions. Like their presence in my home, the questions never end. Why purple and blue? They’re schematic cousins. Why forsake the greater contrast offered by green – a contrast presumably more attractive to kids? Why must Dorothy the Dinosaur consummate her love of roses by eating them, instead of just looking at them like everyone else? Why does Henry the Octopus sound like a bad drunk gargling Jaffas? Why is Captain Feathersword so aggressively and unrelentingly obnoxious? And, for the love of Christ, why is Lachy’s narcolepsy still untreated?

I respect them. I do. As Bono once said of Springsteen, there’s never been a scandal and they’ve always had good hair. No Wiggle that I know of has bashed a cabbie, pissed on a hotel bed or choked on their own vomit. And sure, violence and lurid self-destruction would be off-brand for the group, but wealth and fame can corrupt us all.

They’re polite and professional; their smiles and their bodies seem like strangers to fatigue. When they toured, before the viral shit hit the fan, they often performed three shows a day for weeks and weeks. They’ve written some infectious songs – Do the Propeller is a banger – and their originals pleasingly derive from a variety of genres, like barbershop, disco and British invasion. I notice these things now.

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I mean, they’re very good at what they do. Which is precisely why their colonisation of my home is now complete. It’s like Michael Haneke’s Funny Games. If you haven’t seen the film, don’t. It’s grotesque. Enough to know that, once upon the doorstep of a suburban home, smiling strangers become charming guests … and then malevolent and torturous occupiers.

The Wiggles have made a Faustian pact and the cost of their success is the fear and loathing of millions of parents. That’s just the way it goes. There’s only so many times a day that you can listen to Do the Pretzel in lockdown without a profound depletion of will.

God bless the Wiggles and their dark magic but I will try to wrest some control back. As I will continue, for my tiny angel, to suppress my anxiety in this bleak moment. And to giggle and theatrically pout. And to pretend to be a wild jungle beast. And to play music and bang drums and scarily hide behind couches. I will help maintain the moat around her small kingdom. A kingdom of no yesterdays or tomorrows, only an eternal now; a kingdom of berries and crayons and long midday naps – while Mummy and Daddy occupy the kingdom of the virus.

And as my daughter and I listen to the latest Wiggles song, Social Distancing, I know that they’re trying to help bridge these two kingdoms for the older kids, the ones who do wonder why Mummy and Daddy are wearing masks, and why, suddenly, there are teddy bears in trees.

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And I forgive them.


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