From the joke shop to the high street: why poo is no longer taboo

Its celebrated in emojis, party bags and board games, piled on cup cakes and meringues and theres even a museum dedicated to it. How did we get here?

I was a little hesitant about setting up the National Poo Museum, begins Daniel Roberts, co-creator of the Isle of Wights most intriguing new tourist destination. I thought, am I going to be socially contaminated? Are people going to point at me? Am I going to become Mr Poo?


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    He neednt have worried. The museums exhibits encased in balls of resin, like something from a slightly troubling reimagining of Jurassic Park were a hit. During the year in which the attraction was housed at the Isle of Wight Zoo, the zoo reported its busiest-ever summer. People just loved it, Roberts says. We were nobodies, but because we mentioned poo, the whole world came running. The museums arrival couldnt have been better timed because, as Roberts puts it: In the two years since we launched, weve seen an explosion in poo.

    This is what we might term the sheitgeist. Is there a parent in the land whose child has not arrived home in the last two years clutching a party bag containing some sort of poo-related item: an emoji keyring, a poo-themed eraser, a pot of white or rainbow-coloured unicorn poo slime or putty? A-list party bags are not exempt: at this years Oscars, coveted goodie bags given to nominees included a toilet plunger in the shape of a smiling poo. The pile of poop emoji may have peaked in cultural terms when Patrick Stewart voiced the cheery plop in 2017s The Emoji Movie, but nothing could stop this movement. Last August, according to Google Trends, poop became bigger than Beyonc; last month the Unko Museum opened in Japan, offering interactive exhibits, a ball pit (maybe give that one a miss), games and art. Its mascot, Umberto, is a philosopher who recalls the truth of the universe on the toilet seat.

    The
    The poo-themed Unko Museum in Yokohama, Japan. Photograph: Kyodo News via Getty Images

    Bowel-based interests are nothing new whoopee cushions date back to ancient Rome and a Sumerian one-liner from 1900 BC, cited as the worlds oldest joke, centres on flatulence. But poo merchandise has leapt from the joke shop to the high street. In 2019 Play-Doh offers a special Poop Troop set containing four brown pots promising squishy, poopy fun. Unicorn excrement tops Asda cupcakes and BBC Good Food offers directions on how to create poop meringues. Theres fun for all the family with board games like Hook-A-Poop, Doggie Poo and Dont Step In It. Claires Accessories has sold poo-themed earrings and lip gloss. For a poo nightlight, find your local branch of The Entertainer. Head to Hamleys for a Poopsie Slime Surprise Assortment. Drones configured as flying dung? Sure, why not: 4 on Amazon.

    Last year H Grossman, Scotlands biggest toy manufacturer, sold half a million pots of unicorn poo. Spokesperson Julie Pittilla says Grossman also offers dog poo (That one comes with two flies a classy touch), unicorn poo, llama poo, mermaid poo (It brings up all sorts of images, doesnt it?), dinosaur poo, flamingo poo and sloth poo. Kids have always loved poo, Pittilla declares. Its a bit of defiance its like walking into a room full of vicars and shouting something rude.

    Unicorn
    Unicorn poo Scottish toymaker H Grossman sold half a million pots last year

    Creating similar products is Tobar, whose sub-brand The Throne Room offers a tightly coiled poo hat and something called the Floater. Weve got a pack of two wind-up poos, adds CEO David Mordecai. You can put them in the bath so you have poos racing against each other.

    Top items routinely sell in the tens of thousands, Mordecai notes. Poo sells. I dont think 2019 will see any decline in demand. I ask whether theres been pushback from retailers regardless of demand, its hard to imagine enthusiasm from stores like John Lewis. There are some retailers who have said: We just cant sell it, were not allowed, Mordecai admits. He has been able to get poo in through the back door, though: Some people wouldnt take the brown poo, but they will take unicorn poo.

    The importance of visual differentiation, echoed in the linguistic nuance that finds some brands eschewing poo in favour of the more playful, less graphic poop, is clear when you compare Britains National Poo Museum with Japans Unko Museum. The former is a celebration of actual excreta, some human, while Yokohamas answer is all about cute, colourful, kawaii-style poo with origins in the early-80s manga Dr Slump and its character Poop-Boy, often cited as inspiration for the pile of poop emoji that first appeared on Japanese phones in the late 90s.

    Claires
    Claires Rainbow Unicorn Poo Pot lip gloss

    Before recent developments the concept of cheery, anthropomorphised excrementertainment was already familiar to many. This year sees the 20th anniversary of South Park character Mr Hankey scoring a worldwide hit with his single Mr Hankey, The Christmas Poo, with its lyric: A present from down below, spreading joy with a Howdy-Ho!/Hes seen the love inside of you, cause hes a piece of poo. Hankey had a real-life counterpart in Ti de Nadal, a Catalan festive tradition involving a pile of logs being fed until it excretes nougat, but the South Park creations comic power lay in the fact that, surely, nobody in the real world would ever celebrate or play with poo.

    Yet here we are. Last summer toy giant Mattel launched a game called Flushin Frenzy, in which children fight to grab poo as its hurled out of a toilet in a manner so evocative of Buckaroo that you wonder why the game isnt called Chuckapoo.

    Perhaps it was inevitable that Generation Hankey, those teens of the late-1990s who are now parents, would be amenable to their own kids playing a game like Flushin Frenzy. Or maybe its not just their kids: in 2017 research into the 300m annual kidult toy market suggested that for every 11 toys sold, one was bought by an adult for themselves. Either way, its strange how Mr Hankeys legacy lives on: this year Nasa engineer Kevin M Gill spotted a familiar-looking cyclonic region in the solar system, a discovery summarised by a memorable HuffPost headline: Nasa Discovers South Park Character Mr Hankey The Christmas Poo On Jupiter.

    South
    South Parks Mr Hankey. Photograph: Allstar/Comedy Central

    For a more down-to-earth take lets speak to Nick Haslam, professor of psychology at the University of Melbourne and author of the 2012 book Psychology in the Bathroom. Of traditional attitudes towards poo, he says: Poo is a primal object of disgust and shame, and we are motivated to remove and conceal it for that reason. And if you are putting something out of sight, its usually also the case that you put it out of mind as well by making it a taboo. Haslam wonders if poos repositioning is part of a broader shift: I suspect its driven by a cultural trend towards violating polite taboos with comic intent.

    When I ask what this is doing to kids minds, Haslams reply is straightforward: Probably nothing.

    He cites a study in which children were fed crackers topped with what they were told was poo. It concluded that after the age of three children learn poo is to be avoided at all costs, but that they also come to realise the difference between poo itself and representations of it. Kids, Haslam says, are flirting with the taboo of doing something revolting, which he equates to riding on a rollercoaster a controlled microdose of an intense negative emotion.

    Flushin
    Flushin Frenzy … Mattels poo-fight game

    Roberts, currently renovating the derelict fort that will become the the National Poo Museums permanent home this summer, takes an interesting view when asked if this is all a flash in the pan. Its a concern for us in a sense, he says, but if poo comes in waves I think there are different waves going on right now. We might have reached peak jokey poo, but more serious things have been unleashed.

    He mentions advances in the field of faecal microbiota transplants, which involve the transfer of a donors poo, containing healthy bacteria, into a recipients intestines. The procedure can treat infections where antibiotics cannot; studies are showing that transplants could also help with obesity and even depression. Reporting on faecal transplants last year, the BBC used the phrase medicines most disgusting procedure; would progress in the field have come sooner had people been more open to discussing poo? The NHS seems to think so: in February it included poo in a list of around 100 suggested words for people writing about health. We know some people think we shouldnt use words like pee and poo, wrote NHS content designer Sara Wilcox in a detailed blog, but we havent seen anyone have problems knowing what we mean. Most importantly, if someone with poor literacy understands blood in your poo, it might just save their life.

    After we opened, Roberts adds, one of the first things that happened was that we were contacted by several cancer charities. Bowel cancer charities had been struggling with finding ways to talk openly about poo. People werent going to the doctor until it was too late thousands of people a year were dying of embarrassment.

    The key to truly unlocking the public conversation, he thinks, may lie in the National Poo Museum securing a celebrity donation. His wishlist escalates quite dramatically: Chris Evans, Radio 1s Greg James, David Attenborough, the Queen, the pope. They could have a massive effect on the whole poo taboo, just by donating, Roberts suggests. Either way, I hope weve had some role in making poo into a positive thing that people can talk about.

    Original Article : HERE ; This post was curated & posted using : RealSpecific

     


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