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Nashville Scene Outing Tinky Winky

Rev. Falwell tunes his gay-dar on kiddie shows

By Walter Jowers

FEBRUARY 23, 1999:  Last week, in the February issue of his National Liberty Journal, TV preacher Jerry Falwell outed Tinky Winky, the purple leader of TV's Teletubby clan.

In an article titled, "Parents Alert: Tinky Winky Comes Out of the Closet," Falwell's newsletter cited the following evidence that Tinky Winky is gay: "He is purple--the gay-pride color; and, his antenna is shaped like a triangle--the gay-pride symbol." The article also pointed out that Tinky Winky carries a purse.

"As a Christian," Falwell wrote in a statement last Tuesday, "I feel that role modeling the gay lifestyle is damaging to the moral lives of children."

I won't argue that point. I'll leave that up to the parents of this Great Land. I'm just wondering how a full-grown TV preacher man ended up with a gay Teletubby on his mind.

I know a little something about the Teletubbies show. I learned most of it by reading the biographies attached to each of the four Teletubby dolls, which showed up at our house at Christmas. (They're part of our burgeoning Pop Culture collection, which includes two of the hair-eating Cabbage Patch dolls.) The rest, I learned from watching the show.

There are four humanoids in the Teletubby world: Tinky Winky and Dipsy (males), along with Po and Laa Laa (females). Each has a prop: Dipsy has a hat, Po rides a scooter, and Laa Laa plays with a ball. Tinky Winky's shiny red purse is actually his magic bag, says Steve Rice, a spokesman for Itsy Bitsy Entertainment, which licenses Teletubbies in the U.S. "The fact that he carries a magic bag doesn't make him gay," Rice said.

But back to Falwell's complaining about the "subtle depictions" of Tinky Winky's supposed gayness. It amazes me that Falwell didn't consider the following: First, Tinky Winky is not human. He's a fantasy creature. There are only three fellow creatures in his fantasy world. If they're cool with Tinky Winky, then that ought to be good enough for Falwell, who lives here on earth.

Second, Falwell followers who worry that their kids are going to watch Teletubbies and turn gay might just want to pop in a videotape about how uncomfortable it is in hell. A steady diet of that treatment ought to put those young minds back on track. Or, it'll make the kids run away with the circus as soon as they're old enough to pedal a tricycle away from the house.

Finally, even if Tinky Winky thinks gay, he can't possibly act on his urges. I've watched the show, I've got the dolls, and I'm here to tell you: There is no erectile tissue on a Teletubby, and there are dang few orifices. Tinky Winky can't have anything that resembles human sex. If he's a role model for anything, it's abstinence.

It surprises me that the Falwellians are scanning toddler shows for non-human gay role models. I've heard that bunch argue time and again that gayness never happens outside the human species, and that's how they know humans ought not to be gay. I'm sorry, but I once owned two little boy terriers, Scruffy and Slick. I'm not going to get into the details, but I promise you: Those dogs were homosexuals. Not just by accident, not just once or twice, but hard and steady at it, every day, all day long. They even tried to get a threesome going with my Basset hound, Josh, but Josh wouldn't have it. Eventually, I had to put Josh in a separate pen.

What worries me most about this whole Falwellians-vs.-Tinky Winky cage match are the paranoid delusions these folks must have endured to twist innocent things like purple fur and a triangle antenna into sure indications that this Teletubby is a practicing homosexual. You people, listen to me: Gays do not own the color purple. I've got neighbors who grow the state flower, the purple iris. That doesn't make 'em gay, it makes 'em gardeners. Gays surely don't own the triangle. There's a big triangle part in the William Tell Overture, which is the TV Lone Ranger's theme song. Does that make the Lone Ranger gay? (Oops, bad example. But I think you get my drift.)

As for the purse, we should just take the Teletubbies' spokesman at his word, and call it Tinky Winky's magic bag. But even if it is a purse, I say we give the little guy a break. What's a purple-furred boy with no pockets to do? Velcro his wallet to his ass?

Visit Walter's Web site at http://www.nashvillescene.com/~housesense, or you can e-mail him at walter.jowers@nashville.com.

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