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Why Tinky Winky carries a purse

Why Tinky Winky carries a purse

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Paul Weyrich, head of the seriously conservative Free Congress Foundation, recently said he believes America is "approaching barbarism," that it no longer has a moral majority and that most of us "are out of step" with his group's political movement. He even suggested it may be time to "drop out of this culture."

I'm sure Weyrich is a smart person, but I wonder if he ever considered that maybe his movement is out of step with America, most of which is much more moral and much less barbaric than he gives it credit for.

In fact, I personally don't know any barbarians, do you? I read about them: They abuse children, use violence to solve problems and traffic in hate. They actually appear to be quite apolitical, having to spend so much time planning and executing barbaric acts.

As for the moral majority, whoever they are (were?), I question Weyrich's proclamation of their demise, but that's strictly a numbers game. Still, even assuming he's right, what does he expect when the man most associated with them is hunting teletubbies?

The Rev. Jerry Falwell, grand pooh-bah of the Moral Majority, has accused teletubby Tinky Winky of being gay. While Weyrich is bemoaning the loss of the moral majority, Falwell's upper-case namesake actually closed its doors 10 years ago. Still, it's obvious that Weyrich is talking about many of the same folks.

For those of you fortunate enough to have lived this long without ever seeing a teletubby, trust me, this is no time to start.

Tinky Winky stars with teletubby buddies Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po in a television show called, what else, "Teletubbies," an annoying half-hour for toddlers originating in England and during which absolutely nothing happens.

Falwell's evidence of Tinky Winky's proclivity is three-fold: the color, the triangle, the purse.

Every teletubby has to be some color, and T.W. is purple, no longer just associated with royalty but the hue, according to Falwell, of gay pride. I imagine the good reverend is looking askance at county fair winners with purple ribbons and planning to ask the Minnesota Vikings football team to make some changes.

T.W. sports a triangle for an antenna, proper equipment for any self-respecting teletubby, but in this case a revealing choice. Triangles are symbols gay pride, says Falwell, who will probably have some difficulty convincing the cowpokes getting little dogies along out at the Triangle and Tee Tough as Nails Ranch to retool their brand.

Finally, there is the purse issue. T.W. seems to carry one, and, well, that's self-explanatory and an easy target for Falwellian logic, although some reports say the pack is a magic bag.

Having only seen the fab four a few times, I may be out on a limb here, but I'm not sure T.W. can be gay because he isn't a he. Nor is he a she. In order to be gay, I think you have to be one or the other. The Tinkmeister is your basic antennaed, animated epicene, an electronic, genderless invention to baby-sit our kids.

Falwell argues that T.W. has the voice of a boy, but sound does not a gender make, particularly when the dialogue is mostly oohs and aahs. The phenomenon seems widespread. Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po have no specific leaning themselves.

To get an insider's view of "Teletubbies," I asked an expert on kid television, the gerbil-tending 5-year-old in my house who grinds Cheez-Its into my carpet watching more than his share of the inane and annoying.

He pronounced them "bad," a critical review of some gravity. His reasons were complex, but from what I gathered, all they do is run around, giggle and say "tubby toast," which, given the Falwell revelations, may actually be code for a larger, sinister teletubby intrigue.

Time and Newsweek have reported that gays in England have adopted Tinky Winky as a mascot of sorts, which for Falwell is enough to terminate our purple friend's contract.

Based on the reverend's analysis, I'm now beginning to wonder about Barney, the very purple star in the galaxy of kids TV. And are all those Beanie Babies a front for some subliminal message? (If true, I'm sure it's "Buy me! Buy me!") What about Bert and Ernie? I'm sure Falwell has them in his narrow sights.

What Weyrich forgets is that millions of Americans, I'd say easily a majority, are very moral. But they are also tired of the remote views of leaders like Jerry Falwell, who sees evil in the strangest places — places reached only by being out of step.

If Weyrich really wants to know what's going on, he should redo the math. He'll find a whole bunch of us moral folks huddled in the middle of the political, cultural continuum, trying to keep our distance from Larry Flynt on one end and teletubby bashers on the other.

George Ayoub is the city editor and a columnist at The Independent.

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