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Tinkering, Again, With Tinky Winky

Jun
1
2007

Fear not, ye of much faith. The late evangelist Jerry Falwell may be gone, but his influence lives on. In Poland, no less.
As reported, Poland’s children’s rights ombudsman Ewa Sowinska told a weekly Polish magazine that she planned to looked into whether the character Tinky Winky on the preschoolers’ TV show Teletubbies is gay, and, presumably, promoting homosexuality. Which presumably would be bad. The government official said she hadn’t at first thought of the possibility, but had heard the idea had been stated in the U.S. and that it was worth looking into.
So here we go again with this obessing over poor Tinky. What’s next? Mel Gibson getting drunk and saying the Teletubby runs Hollywood?
As you might remember, Falwell raised the Tinky issue back in 1999, writing that Tinky Winky was indeed gay and a bad role model for kids. Falwell based his analyis on a few telltale signs. The rounded, plush costumed character is purple and his antenna is shaped like a triangle, symbols related to gay pride; he also carries a bag, even though he’s a he. (At least nominally he’s a he, because the four squealy characters all have the same smooth outline, differing only by size, color and antenna shape. And don’t tell the Europeans, and other manbag carriers, that only women carry purses.)
Then the Polish story broke internationally, and the official quickly backed off. Embarrassment? Maybe. Poland’s a recent E.U. member – maybe they don’t want to seem like a total laughingstock, picking up these silly ideas from the States. And Poland certainly doesn’t need to import homophobic idiocies, when it easily comes up with its own means of discriminating.
The country’s governing coalition, which includes a “family-oriented” anti-gay and anti-abortion party, has several times been chastised by the E.U. for homophobic (not to mention racist and xenophobic and anti-semitic) actions and statements in themselves, that also promote a homophobic environment. Not that Poland is alone in Europe, unfortunately, in seeing overt prejudice on the rise. Other parts of Eastern Europe, including Russia, are also showing an increase in anti-gay acts, while racism, xenophobia, anti-semitism, more of those great unifying philosophies people have come up with, are also reported on the increase in parts of the continent.
How nice though that a U.S. figure was able to provide some inspiration for homophobes in Poland. For an American living abroad, every so often someone will ask you to explain the more extreme aspects of your culture, like Jerry Falwell, or hot dog eating contests. There’s often an implicit, or explicit, criticism in those questions. And I know, I know, let them give back that Marshall Plan money – with interest – if they’re so critical. Nevertheless, it’s awkward.
But now, the U.S.-European ideological overlap is clear. We’ve got homophobes, you’ve got homophobes. We’ve got racists and xenophobes (popping up, for example, among the anti-immigration crowd) and so on, so do you. It’s a small world after all.
Editor’s note: For a U.S. evangelical’s opinion of Jerry Falwell, see this post by Mike Spinney.

Share  Posted by Deborah Klosky at 9:08 AM | Permalink

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