Campaigning by some Beano readers to call Bash Street Kids character “Fatty” by his real name – Frederick “Freddy” Brown – has won over Beano Studios.
The decision was announced by Mike Stirling, editorial director of Beano Studios, over the weekend, who noted the character had always been called Freddy, telling the Sunday Post: “Kids come in all shapes and sizes and we absolutely celebrate that. We don’t want to risk someone using it in a mean way. The time is right to revert back to Freddy.”
The Beano has changed the name of the Bash Street Kid ‘Fatty’ to ‘Freddie’. The editorial director of @BeanoOfficial told Giles Coren why they changed it.@gilescoren | @MikeyStirling pic.twitter.com/srFAbighS0— Times Radio (@TimesRadio) May 21, 2021
“I’ve been tweeting and emailing the Beano for the past year, or so” deligjted parent and Beano fan Mark Goodwin posted to social media over the weekend, “telling them to rename ‘Fatty’ and to stop fat-shaming him (because how can I teach my kids to be kind whilst condoning calling overweight kids, “‘Fatty’?).
“This morning the Beano arrived through our letterbox and they appear to have very quietly renamed him…. FREDDY! Let’s see if they also stop the fat-shaming jokes too.”
“The Bash Street Kids” was by Leo Baxendale as “When the Bell Rings”, first appearing in The Beano in No. 604, cover dated 13th February 1954, also appearing briefly in The Wizard as series of prose stories in 1955. The strip became “The Bash Street Kids” in 1956 and has become a regular feature, appearing in every issue, most drawn by David Sutherland since 1961.
Needless to say, the decision prompted outrage among past readers who took to Facebook groups to protest the decision, and the change took a while to implement on the Beano‘s own web site with the character’s profile, until yesterday, still proclaiming him “Fatty”.
“I just thought it sad. Another nail in the coffin of my/our shared childhood,” felt blogger Howard Fuller, a view shared by some in a rather heated thread on the Mighty World of British Comics Facebook Group, while on Conservative Woman, Henry Getley described the decision as “a woeful concession to wokenes“.
National newspapers such as the Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and Daily Express ran with the story in a similar vein, the stories producing near apoplexy in some – many who, it turned out, had not to have read the comic for decades – and some who declared the change had “destroyed” their childhood.
“We’ve recently received a number of letters from kids asking us why Frederick Brown was called Fatty, by himself and his classmates,” said Mike Stirling “Although it’s always been used affectionately, and never pejoratively, we agreed it’s time it changed.
“Freddy’s mum – and teacher – may still sometimes address him as ‘Frederick’, whenever he’s in trouble, which for a Bash Street Kid is not uncommon.”
“Having a kid called Fatty isn’t really helpful in today’s climate,” noted comic fan Frank Winter during Facebook discussion. “It’s a sensible decision to change it to Freddy. Much the same as every last panel of a strip doesn’t have to end with a spanking these days.
“Loads of things that we took for granted in the ‘60’s wouldn’t fly today. Racism, sexism, bullying, smoking, no seatbelts. It’s great that we’re addressing them now.”
“The changes haven’t destroyed their childhoods,” feels cartoonist Lew Stringer. “The present can’t alter the past. Their old Beano collections haven’t been rewritten, and they can still collect back issues they’ve never seen to experience stories the way they like them.”
Various comic characters have, of course, had “weight issues” down the years, most notably “Billy Bunter” and “Bessie Bunter“, characters now owned by 2000AD publisher Rebellion, and “Hungry Horace“, who featured in Sparky, and the Beano‘s own “Fatty Fudge“, drawn by Jim Petrie.
Other Beano characters have had name changes int he past, not least of them arch tearaway Dennis, previously “Dennis the Menace”. Even “The Beano” is now simply BEANO.
• Responding to criticism of recent changes, and support of Pride Month; and, in particular, an abysmal parody of the Bash Street Kids by the Daily Mail, the BEANO has responded by saying it has always been led in what it does by its readers. “They tell us what they want to see and ask us to do better when we don’t get it right.” The response on social media implied action could be taken, but instead they decided to donate to the charity Young Minds (presumably rather than pay lawyers to sue) – and urged readers to do the same
The Bash Street Kids © Beano Studios