Politics & Policy

Sex, Drugs, and Teletubbies; Learning From The Enemy

News broke yesterday that Jerry Falwell believes that the kiddy-show Teletubbies contains not-so-hidden messages promoting the gay lifestyle. In his Liberty Journal he advised parents that Tinky Winky wears a “gay-pride” triangle on his head, has a boy’s voice but carries a girl’s purse, and is purple–the gay-pride color (and the Roman imperial color too, but that’s a quibble). Because I don’t have any kids (the state can pin on me) and I don’t smoke pot, I’m not a Teletubbies fan. But I have seen the show more than a few times–it’s not like if there’s nothing else on I’m gonna just turn the TV off.

So is Falwell right? Will letting your drooling rugrat watch Teletubbies make him gay as a French horn? Doubtful. But, it might make him into a total freak — straight sure — but still, a total freak. My understanding is that in America, the biggest audience for Teletubbies is moms playing with their kids. The second biggest audience is pot-heads taking Rastafarian communion while knee deep in 7-11 microwavable burrito wrappers. It’s no surprise that people who like to spark up watch this stuff since you’d have to be high as a moon bat to write it. Teletubbies is weird. It freaks me out man, totally. Without a kid or the THC tour guide to walk you through it, this stuff will mess you up dude, bad. There is no secret I wouldn’t reveal, no plans to a missile base I wouldn’t give up, if I were forced to watch this show for more than eight hours straight. Strap me down, flip it on, and by dinner time you’d have the identity of every member of the vast right-wing conspiracy. Big, globby, weird things screaming the phone book backwards in baby talk and then giggling. Winking suns and, and, tubby toast . . . . Yeeuuccchhh. Freaky.

But, at the same time should Falwell be mocked for pointing out that Tinky Winky likes gladiator movies? No. He shouldn’t. You won’t get it from the TV news which is already in full Falwell mockery mode, but there is reason for him to be concerned. Hanna Rosin reports in today’s Washington Post that, in fact, the gay community has liked the cut of Tinky Winky’s jib for quite some time. Earlier this year the Post itself dubbed Tinky Winky the next Ellen DeGeneres. Rosin reports that in gay internet chat rooms Mr. Winky is quite a popular fellow. When the human who plays him was arrested in London, for wearing nothing but a balloon (no conclusions to be drawn there), gay groups protested. And apparently a Winky backpack is as good as a wink in certain gay circles in London.

Rosin subtlety points out that gay groups were upset, not by the accusation that this Teletubbie is gay, but that he was outed, by a anti-gay group. “Jerry Falwell’s paranoia about gay people has reached a new and ludicrous high-water mark,” said the spokesman for the Human Rights campaign. But gay groups can’t have it both ways. If you want to celebrate that some cottony-soft monster on TV is gay, you can’t then be shocked, shocked, when people who don’t dig that sort of thing complain. Andrew Sullivan, the gay British author misses the point when he says sarcastically to the Post, “Clearly Bugs Bunny is gay. Just the other night he was dressed in drag and seducing Elmer Fudd.” First, that’s not true! But second, it wasn’t Falwell who first picked up on this instance of crypto-homoerotic tropism in fin-de-siècle adolescent programming (Sorry, I just picked up my college film text book. Translation: Falwell was just following the gay community’s lead).

Clearly homosexuality is a complex thing. This dust-up doesn’t warrant my trying to decipher it today. But suffice it to say, it doesn’t seem unreasonable for people who care about this sort of thing, to belittle someone like Falwell when he says “Hey, guess what? Your kids’ show has a gay icon in it.” I remember when, in the 1980s, they made a Saturday morning cartoon out of the Fantastic Four. They had to eliminate the character Human Torch because network executives were scared that children might self-immolate themselves while attempting to imitate Johnny Storm’s flaming alter ego — flaming in the non-Tinky Winky sense, Johnny Storm was all man. More recently, Ted Turner dropped big bucks into Captain Planet which teaches kids that human beings are bad for the environment. Parental groups regularly complain about violence in kids’ shows and gay groups gripe about derogatory images of homosexuality with regularity — is this so different?

Teletubbies probably won’t drag your kids into a life they weren’t destined for anyway. But what’s the harm in telling people that Tinky Winky is the children’s auxillary Judy Garland? Are gay activists really worried that readers of Liberty Journal’s parent alerts will become even more alienated from the gay-rights agenda? That ship has sailed.


So President Clinton is “furious” with Republicans who impeached and tried to remove him, according to the New York Times today. Good. Good. Good. Bring it on. Cha cha. But the Republicans need to get some spine. In a recent story, Richard Berke and James Bennett quote numerous Republicans who either talk defensively about principle, or substantively about process. Forget that. Have we learned nothing from the White House spinners? Offense is not merely the best,it is the only defense in this situation.

“This just shows how President Clinton lied once again when he spoke about the politics of personal destruction. This just shows that the president’s pattern of deceit continues when he says he seeks closure and the opportunity to get about the work of the American People. We want to move forward with our agenda for hope, growth, and opportunity [Or any other good slogan] and the president wants to play petty partisan games. This just shows that the real partisans in this whole episode were Democrats who are still trying to distort the facts and use a grave constitutional crime for craven political advantage. Shame on Bill Clinton and shame on Al Gore for not denouncing this next fateful chapter in the politics of personal destruction.”

That is what Republicans should be saying every time the president or his spinners attempt to claim the moral high ground in the post-impeachment era. Speaking of which, COMING TOMORROW: The last G-File of the Impeachment. I’ve got the balloon-drop all set up in my living room.


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