You didn't think it important enough to tell me? That the Teletubbies reproduced? That there are now eight "Tiddlytubby" babies in addition to the regular 4 (adult?) Teletubbies? That evangelical politician Jerry Falwell was right in his warning oh so many years ago that the Tubs were sexualized?
I had no idea that there were now Tiddlytubbies roaming the, well, wherever Tiddlytubbies roam. Actually, their home is in Teletubbyland (duh!) where (as you remember,) a large vacuum cleaner named NooNoo looks after them. An infant's smiling face superimposed over an animated sun rises above the "Tubbytronic Superdome" every morning, cooing and giggling. (It's all coming back to you now, right? Making perfect sense as it always did.) The original Tubbs - Tinky-Winky, Dipsy, Laa Laa and Po - spoke in "toddler gibberish," and had telescreens embedded in their colorful, round tummies.
If you had a toddler in the house in the late 90s and beyond, it was hard not to tune the TV in the morning to the Tubbs and plop a tot in front of the strangely hypnotizing series. (Don't ask me how I know.) Most pre-K age kids were mesmerized enough by the baby gurglings and bouncing teleblobs that you had enough time to brush your teeth and steal a 4-minute shower. Maybe run downstairs and grab a honeybun and your first coffee.
The show was created for the BBC and became quite the hit. The show has been aired in over 120 countries in 45 different languages. How hard is it to translate toddler gurgles? The show ran from 1997 to 2001 and again from 2015 to 2018 with reruns in between. By the year 2000, the show had generated over $1.5 billion in merch, alone. British media writers called it "the most lucrative show in BBC television history."
It became somewhat of a cult. The striking, colorful visuals, the sound effects, cooing babies and a talking infant sun... you know how many college kids were higher than a Christmas moon watching these shows? Other more sober folks started looking for hidden meanings, symbols, and conspiracies.
Enter Jerry Falwell from upstage right... far right. The late, outspoken leader of the evangelical ultra-right political movement was all about wedge issues; he had learned how to create controversy and trigger anger and outrage among his flock. He and other evangelicals had barely taken note of Roe and the legalization of abortion when it happened. They considered it a "Catholic" issue. Angry over anti-segregation legislation, their rallying cries about freedom of religion were not providing much traction. Finally, in 1978, Falwell preached his first sermon that mentioned abortion as sinful and an abomination - five years after Roe. By the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan, Falwell proved that he had a wedge issue that could turn out a motivated base. And soon, he added LGBT rights as a "problem" to stir up his tribe.
By the time Po and Tinky Winky and the rest bounced into the scene, Falwell was finding gay conspiracies everywhere. Remember that Anita Bryant had started her "Save the Children" anti-gay crusade way back in 1977. Twenty years later, Falwell was fighting the culture wars on a half dozen fronts. He discovered that LGBT issues were as consequential as abortion. It was nothing for him to find a gay conspiracy brewing in the Tubbytronic Superdome.
Falwell suggested that Tinky Winky was gay and was subversively turning toddlers over to the whole LGBT agenda. Tinky Wink was purple, you see, (the gay color?) and the antenna sticking out of his head was a triangle, (yikes! a gay symbol, right?) and the final, irrefutable proof was that he carried some sort of purse or man-bag. Ha! Who could deny this obvious evidence!? (To be fair, Falwell was not the first to discuss Winky's sexuality, or for that matter, any of the Tubbies' sexual preferences. The Guardian newspaper outed the purple Teletubby as “a gay icon who prances around in a particularly campy way” (“campy” being British-speak for “blatantly homosexual”). While most folks howled in laughter (or took another bong hit and watched another episode,) the usual evangelical pearl-clutchers fretted that the "gays" were taking over. The Teletubbies were groomers!
As usual, when it comes to cultural issues, the opposition took Tinky's purse and ran with it. Suddenly, there were Tinky Winky's leading Pride parades and showing up at gay bars. He, (it, they? Do Tubbies have pronouns? Or reproductive organs to begin with for that matter?) became an icon.
But now the chickens have come home to roost. Or at least the Tiddlytubbies have.
Those original Tubbs must have had some kind of reproductive capability because out popped 8 more. Baa, Umby Pumby, Ping, Daa Daa, Nin, Mi-Mi, and Duggle Dee appeared near the end of the original Teletubbies series, and Netflix gave them their own program starting in 2017, (I KNOW! I'm still a little peeved that you didn't alert me!)
As one Twitter user put it, "Must have missed a late-night edition. Did Po Dipsy his TinkyWinky in someone’s Laa-Laa?”
Internet sleuths and DNA detectives have tried to determine the parentage of the Tiddlies. Tubby melanin was compared. Antenna shapes were examined and there was much speculation about what that antenna did and where it might... fit. And how does one collect DNA samples from a Tubby? Do the Mormons track Tubby genealogy?
And these days? We're back to where we started, all those years ago. Abortion is de facto illegal in several states. The state of Florida has expanded its “Don’t Say Gay” laws and the Florida House has passed bills on halting gender-transition treatments, bathroom use, and keeping children out of drag shows. (Some of these laws are being blocked or challenged in court.)
And just like all those years ago, parents are aghast over those naughty Teletubbies.
For all his righteousness, maybe Jerry Falwell should have worked on that log in his own eye, maybe worried about the sexualization of his own son. (Or did he foolishly permit Jerry Jr. to watch too many Teletubby episodes?) As you know, Jr. inherited Falwell's evangelical, ultra-rightwing Liberty College. In the spirit of the modern GOP, Falwell Jr. made several self-dealing real estate transactions with University funds and property, openly endorsed Trump, denounced homosexuality, and was known to talk openly and in crude terms about his personal sex life. Finally, he was exposed as having a long-running, love-triangle affair with his wife and a young pool boy. It seems that Jr. had a problem with his own Tinky Winky.
Liberty University students caught so much as holding hands on campus could face fines, community service, or even expulsion.
Back in Florida? Anita Bryant's grandaughter has come out as gay. Because karma, or God's Will, or something. She married her partner. In response, Anita B. could only say that homosexuality is a delusion invented by the devil and that her granddaughter should focus on loving God, because that would make her realize she's straight. We assume that granddaughter did not get that lovely orange juice pitcher as a wedding gift.
And DeSantis, author of that "Don't Say Gay" law, seems to be doing badly, dropping in poll after poll. Not exactly happy news when you realize that those poll numbers are dropping into Trump's abundant lap.
Finally: The late Falwell Sr. had to look for subtle "gay signals," sometimes inventing them out of purple cloth. Today's culture has shifted into openly embracing (at least some expressions of) gender fluidity, the LGBT community, and multiple understandings of masculinity and femininity. Back then, Bert and Ernie seemed pretty closeted. Tinky Winky, well, was he or wasn't he? These days, Dipsy, Laa Laa, and Po are downtown at the library's drag time story hour.
Rest assured, however, the fight isn't over.
There IS good news. Sometimes you have to sift through the gloom and gore. (How fun was it to celebrate those young TiddlyTubbies?!) Myra thinks it's important for our mental health to focus on the few good stories that we run across.
It's time we once again take a look at the misguided and screwball son of a famous political family. No, no, no more Hunter. This one has an even more famous lineage. No, not Don Jr. Oh just read it. It's about a Kennedy, so now you have to. Roger Gray reports...
Donald Trump doesn't live in Texas, but the equally detestable Ted Cruz does and represents this state in Washington. He and his like-minded pals in the State Capitol are Texas. They are the Republican Party. They've been running this state for years and it looks like that may not change for a while. You used to 'laugh to keep from crying.' There's little to laugh at anymore. And people are giving up.
Be sure and subscribe to receive our stories weekly.
If you can, we'd love it if you became a paid subscriber.