April 6, 1998, was a dark day for our beloved country. Everything we Americans had once held sacred – our morals, our customs, our intellectual integrity – was threatened by the invasion of a depraved force of subhuman creatures.
They came from England armed with flowers, purses, televised stomachs and baby talk, and they took over America's TV sets by storm. Their plan: to capture our children's attention with bright colors and silly antics and then turn their minds to mush.
Who are these evil assailants? They are none other than Po, Dipsy, Laa-Laa, and Tinky Winky, otherwise known as the "Teletubbies."
For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, don't worry. You will soon be bombarded with Teletubbie hype from all angles as the fuzzballs establish themselves in the United States. Like the Spice Girls, this British sensation is sure to become an American obsession, but unlike the Spice Girls, the Teletubbies have nothing intelligible to offer U.S. residents (OK, so the Spice Girls don't either, but at least they speak English).
The show was actually created as an alternative to advanced shows such as "Sesame Street" and "Barney," which supposedly confuse toddlers rather than entertain and/or educate them. To make the plot as simple as possible, "Teletubbies" omits anything even remotely educational, including words.
A typical show is centered around an activity as meaningful as chasing after a vacuum cleaner, eating some "Tubby Toast," or huddling together and chanting "Big hug! Big hug!" One of the show's best features is its redundancy, giving toddlers the ability to accurately predict future events, which in turn increases their self-esteem. "Tinky Winky picked up a flower! And another! Let me see, I think he's going to picks up a flower . . . Yea! Me so smart!"
To be completely objective, "Teletubbies" is a show about four stupid characters with stupid names in a stupid field doing stupid things. Though the program may be visually appealing, it hardly contains anything that could stimulate a child's mental development; in fact, it may stop a child from thinking altogether. For this very reason, many children's education groups have denounced the Teletubbies, calling them "insidious garbage" and even "vaguely evil."
Though I won't go so far as to say they are spawns of Satan, I would have to agree that they do more harm than good to a child's intellectual growth. How can a child learn if he or she is not challenged to think? It's like playing an instrument or a sport – you take lessons from someone who is better than you; otherwise, you will never improve.
Proponents of "Teletubbies" argue that the show's simplicity is actually a benefit because it allows young children to relate to the material. Anything above their skill level would only serve to frustrate them, which is why children love "Teletubbies" – it contains nothing that could possibly confuse or alienate the audience.
Well, I grew up watching "Sesame Street," and although I'm sure I did not understand everything that was being said, I still loved the show. Kids love most anything. Heck, they oftentimes find wrapping paper just as interesting as the gift it is wrapped around. Such bright-eyed enthusiasm comes with the age, so wouldn't it make sense to greet that enthusiasm with potentially useful material? Neurons are continually being connected in these impressionable young minds, and the type of associations made by watching Teletubbies are on the level of "big hug" = "fun."
What's even more disturbing than the show's content is the show's popularity. Children, teenagers and adults alike are falling in love with these freaky creatures. Dolls resembling the Teletubbies are selling for as much as $1600 (take that, Elmo!), and the song "Teletubbies say 'Eh-Oh,'" a moving piece inspired by their profound wisdom, has already topped the British pop singles chart. What about the Teletubbies could possibly appeal to older audiences? I know it's not their "deep message" and I would hope its not their appearance. Barney is certainly a much cuter animal – all the Teletubbies have television sets implanted in their stomachs and weird pipe cleaner things sticking out of their fleshy, fetal-alcohol-syndrome-like faces.
Perhaps the Teletubbies have succeeded not only in dumbing-down toddlers but in dumbing-down the rest of the population as well. Having been aided by mind-numbing entertainment such as the Hansons and the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, the Teletubbies burst onto the scene one step closer to total world domination.
We must act now to educate our children before it is too late. Just say no to Po!