Who (or what) are the "Teletubbies?" Many people are familiar with this relatively new cultural phenomenon, but for those who are not, they are rather hard to describe. They appear on a PBS television program designed for toddlers. One newspaper writer has described them as "four roly-poly futuristic rugrats." They are brightly colored, alien-like technological babies, complete with baby talk and giggles. They live in a hilly, pastoral land, full of flowers and bunnies and sunshine, as well as technological gadgets, such as their caretaker/vacuum cleaner named Noo-Noo. They each have their own personalities and favorite toys, and they have taken America, as well as much of the world, by storm.
PBS contends that the television series "is designed to encourage curiosity and to stimulate imagination" in young children: to help them learn. The creators of the program, which began in Britain, conducted research with children, nursery school teachers, and linguists. The co-creator and writer, Andrew Davenport, has a degree in Speech Sciences. "Teletubbies" makes use of bright colors, music, repetition, and a slow pace, because this is how young children learn, according to the current research on education. Michael Brunton, in an article in Time, said that "people are missing the point" when they criticize the repetition and hear the baby-talk of the teletubbies. "Teletubbies is in fact closely modeled around the latest theories of speech that identify patterns of movement, a sing-song voice,...repetition and social interaction as key building blocks." These views have been widely publicized, as has been the idea that young children learn the most, and most rapidly, before the age of three. PBS also contends that the teletubbies were created for "today's children who are growing up in a landscape rich with technological tools."
Although they seem to be cuddly, loving, and fun-filled creatures who live in a land of imagination, they have inspired some avid enemies and much controversy. I knew this was an issue worth investigating when one of my college professors said, "I heard Tinky Winky (one of the teletubbies) is gay." This issue has been discussed on the Internet and in many newspapers. In the Reverend Jerry Falwell's National Liberty Journal, an editorial claimed that Tinky Winky, who is purple, carries a red bag/purse, and has an inverted triangle on his head, is gay. Diana Butler Bass, in an article for the New York Times, stated that she and her husband, as well as many other parents also noticed that Tinky Winky "bends gender." I watched three "Teletubbies" episodes in a row to get to the bottom of this controversy. While this does not make me an expert, I have to say that the red purse only appeared (on Tinky Winky's arm) for about 30 seconds while all four teletubbies were dancing around. This was in the 3rd episode that I watched. Tinky Winky, although he is the biggest and seemingly oldest...