Horror show

December 16, 1998

Am I the only one who’s creeped out by the Teletubbies? Tell me I’m not alone. Tell me there are others out there who find the bouncy, verbally-challenged quartet the most frightening white-faced British creatures since those children in Village of the Damned.

I remember the day I first saw the Teletubbies. I came home, and my wife had a look of horror plastered across her face.

“You won’t believe it,” she said breathlessly. “You just won’t believe it. Come here. Look at this. You won’t believe it.”

“What’s wrong?” I asked as she led me by the hand to the TV set.

“I was flipping around the stations earlier and found…found…” she stumbled, not sure how to describe the freakish G-rated monsters aimed at the 18-month-old set. “God, they were hideous,” she said. “I can’t describe them. I taped them. Just watch.”

She popped in a videocassette and hit the play button on the remote. Suddenly, bursting forth from the screen with mind-numbing inanity were four colorful, pear-shaped beasts with grotesque spindly growths sprouting from their heads and rectangular screens emblazoned on their abdomens as though they were unwilling scientific test subjects.

But these test subjects were willing. Oh, yes. More than willing. I’d go so far as to proclaim these plush mutants as being exuberant at having been deformed and then mentally reduced to the point of finding sheer joy in performing the same actions over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over…and loving it.

Case in point: the yellow freak steps in front of a mirror and goes, “Ooohh!” Then he steps back. Then he steps in front of the mirror again and goes, “Ooohh!” Then he steps back. Then he steps in front of the mirror again and goes, “Ooohh!” Then he steps back. Then he…well, you get the picture.

The British foursome – Tinky Wink, Po, La La, and Ringo – spend their time hanging around a hobbit-type dwelling amidst the verdant hilltops of the Land of Fuzzy But Scary Things. The last time I accidentally flipped to the public television station, there they were, taking turns wearing a skirt and – inadvertently or not – inspiring criminal behavior.

It went something like this:

Po is wearing a skirt. Enter Tinky Wink.

Tinky Wink: Tinky Wink turn! Tinky Wink turn!

Po: Ahhh!

Po relinquishes the skirt to Tinky Wink. Tinky Wink wraps it around his, her, or its waist. Exit Po.

Tinky Wink: Tinky Wink skirt! Tinky Wink skirt!

Tinky Wink spins around, happy to be wearing the skirt. Enter La La.

La La: La La turn! La La turn!

Tinky Wink: Ahhh!

Tinky Wink relinquishes the skirt to La La. La La wraps it around his, her, or its waist. Exit Tinky Wink.

La La: La La skirt! La La skirt!

La La spins around, happy to be wearing the skirt. Enter Ringo.

Only after 14 hours do the Teletubbies tire of their clothes swapping and switch to igniting Zippo lighters for an entire day, cooing, “Fire good! Fire good!”

Speaking of fire…the sun, as portrayed in the Teletubbies’ world, is the glowing, floating head of an infant, an image bound to send the kiddies toddling off to a world of nightmares. Dare I say…creepy?

This is a theory – just a theory – but I believe the Teletubbies are descendants of the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz. Those horrifyingly vacuous pasty faces, that inability to form sentences, that…that…that creepiness.

I understand that the intended audience isn’t made up of Rhodes scholars. All I’m saying is that we shouldn’t be surprised when, 15 years from now, there’s a rash of convenience store hold-ups where white-masked perpetrators with grotesque spindly growths on top of their heads point guns at cashiers and cry, “Tinky Wink money! Tinky Wink money!”

That’s all I’m saying.

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