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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution


Muppets Revisited -- Teletubbies Regurgitated

by Andrew Schulze


  I remember a time when I was younger.

  More specifically the half hour between pajamas and bedtime.

  Every evening that time would find me sitting down to watch my favorite television show. It was a time for smiling and for laughing. It was also a time for hoping; hoping that Dr. Bunsen Honeydew might accidentally detonate something causing Beaker to explode into twenty billion pieces. Again. It was, of course, The Muppet Show.

  Apparently I was not alone in watching the Muppets, as many of my seven friends here at Bard have confessed that they watched the Muppets, as well as Sesame Street, when they were younger too. Gonzo, Fozzie, and Bert and Ernie, have proven to be shared personalities. For this reason, they are dependable conversation starters, and frequent allusions in various discussions related to comedy. I've also heard their occasional employment in severely drunken pick up lines. Not first hand, of course.

  In sharing some Muppet memories with a friend of mine the other day, I paused to ask her if she knew what kids were watching on television today. Her answer frightened me. She said, "Barney and Teletubbies." I don't like Barney. I watched Barney once, and was very upset. I recognized the fairy tales and nursery rhymes as the same ones that I had grown up with, yet they had been euphemistically laundered to be made fit for broadcast on PBS. Additionally, the beloved purple dinosaur's all encompassing love for everything under the sun made me want to vomit. Where was Oscar the Grouch? Where were Statler and Waldorf? Where were people that complained about everything? Accordingly, I find Barney's playground and classroom utopia quite difficult to stomach. Having grown up with the Muppets, I delighted at the chance that a large blunt object might spontaneously fall from the rafters at any moment, leveling Barney where he stood.

  While I am familiar with Barney, I can't say that I know very much about the Teletubbies. In fact, I'm quite proud to say that I've never watched the Teletubbies at all. For this reason, I decided to consult an expert.

  Veta Allan, who lives next door to me, had this to say about the Teletubbies; "The Teletubbies is the most bizarre concept for such a successful show that I've ever seen."

  As Veta explained, and as I understand it, Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa, and Po, all hop around some kind of magical Teletubbyland, singing and dancing. They also do far more engaging things. They make Teletubbie Toast, and Teletubbie Custard.

  Exciting.

  Rumor has it that the purple Teletubbie, Tinky Winky, is gay. I believe it was the conservative Jerry Falwell who was initially one of the most vocal about Tinky Winky's sexual orientation, although countless others have since argued that Tinky Winky must be homosexual. After all, he is purple, he does have an upside down triangle on top of his head, and he does carry a purse--excuse me--a "magic bag."

  While this is a awfully convincing argument, I have a hard time championing the notion that a gender neutral puppet can be gay. Proving such a sexual orientation would be quite difficult. As far as I know, Tinky has no winky.

  I asked Veta about Tinky Winky. She had this to say; "Tinky Winky is too tall. The other Teletubbies are much cuter. Especially Po." Veta directs our focus back to characters, rather than their sexual practices. The bottom line is that the Muppets and Sesame street have some kind of educational content, while shows like the Teletubbies have little. The Count taught us how to count. The Teletubbies teach us how to bounce around, and make Teletubbie Custard. Jim Henson's gentle genius affords children the chance to enjoy themselves, while learning something about the world. On a profound level, one could view the Muppets as a completely dysfunctional group that usually managed to get along, and turn out a damn good show. Somehow. In this respect, The Muppet Show is not unlike the world. On a significantly less profound level, Sesame Street can be seen as a sanctuary for those us like Cookie Monster, who have blue fur, great big googly eyes, and whose vices are as simple and easily identifiable as eating lots and lots of cookies.

  The Muppets and Sesame Street teach and tutor the child. Programming of this sort imparts the rudimentary wisdom that is expected of educational children's television.

  Additionally, it is a delight for both children and parents alike. I, for one, can still remember some of the quite intelligent lyrics to Ernie's "I Don't Want To Live on the Moon."

  I can't imagine what a child remembers after watching the Teletubbies.

  The lessons I've learned from the Muppets and Sesame Street have endured, and are still exercised in my everyday life. I always look both ways before crossing the street, and I take pride in being able to count to twenty. I can relate to Ernie's plight when he wonders if he would like to live on the moon, and I still identify with Kermit every time I hear him sing the Rainbow Connection.

  I also have no trouble embracing the wholehearted truth behind C is for cookie.

  And that's good enough for me.