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Monday, 15 February, 1999, 12:13 GMT
'Gay Tinky Winky bad for children'
Is the purple Tinky Winky a bad influence on children?
The innocent world of the Teletubbies is under attack from America's religious right.

The Reverend Jerry Falwell, a former spokesman for America's Moral Majority, has denounced the BBC TV children's show. He says it does not provide a good role model for children because Tinky Winky is gay.

Cheerful Tinky Winky, the purple character with the triangular aerial on his head, carries a handbag - but apart from that seems much the same as his friends Laa-Laa, Dipsy and Po.

The characters are famous for their use of baby language, including the catchphrases "eh-oh" meaning "hello", and "uh-oh" for "oh dear".

But the Teletubbies have made the Rev Falwell, chancellor of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, hot under the collar. He decided to "out" Tinky Winky in the February edition of his National Liberty Journal.

'Subtle depictions'

In an article called Parents Alert: Tinky Winky Comes Out of the Closet, he says: "He is purple - the gay-pride colour; and his antenna is shaped like a triangle - the gay-pride symbol."

He said the "subtle depictions" of gay sexuality are intentional and later issued a statement that read: "As a Christian I feel that role modelling the gay lifestyle is damaging to the moral lives of children."

In the same article he also condemned the US animated show South Park as "vile and impudent".

The Teletubbies, aimed at pre-school children, is immensely popular in the UK and around the world.

The show was first broadcast on US public TV last spring where it is now as popular as another children's show, Barney, a singing dinosaur. But perhaps parents should beware of Barney as well - he also happens to be purple.

'Absurd and offensive'

The Teletubbies are portrayed by actors in oversized, brightly coloured costumes. They all have television screens on their tummies and, according to the story line, live in a "chromedome" hidden in the hills.

Steve Rice, a spokesman for Itsy Bitsy Entertainment, which licenses the Teletubbies in the US, said : "The fact that he carries a magic bag doesn't make him gay.

"It's a children's show, folks. To think we would be putting sexual innuendo in a children's show is kind of outlandish.

"To out a Teletubby in a pre-school show is kind of sad on his part. I really find it absurd and kind of offensive."

A BBC spokeswoman said: "This is not the first time that people have read symbolism into a children's TV programme and it probably won't be the last.

"As far as we are concerned Tinky Winky is simply a sweet, technological baby with a magic bag."

Gay comedian John Beaupray: "Tinky Winky's handbag is the wrong colour"
Andy Beatt: "America's sex police are on the job, and even the Teletubbies aren't safe"
See also:

07 Aug 98 | Entertainment
Teletubbies mania reaches NZ
13 Oct 98 | Entertainment
Teletubbies say oui
24 Dec 98 | Entertainment
Teletubbies' secrets to be revealed
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