Tinky Winky - the Gay Teletubby?

By Carolyn Gargaro
Rightgrrl Co-Founder
February 11, 1999

Teletubbies. Love 'em or hate 'em, they are currently in the news. Why? Because it was suggested in The National Liberty Journal that one of the Teletubbies named "Tinky Winky" could be gay.

Let me first make it clear that this article is not about homosexuality itself. This is about obvious overreaction and biased reporting from the media.

Tinky Winky The February edition of The National Liberty Journal, edited and published by the Reverend Jerry Falwell, contained an article warning parents the Teletubby "Tinky Winky" may be a gay role model. The publication says Tinky Winky has the voice of a boy but carries a purse. It says: "He is purple the gay-pride color; and his antenna is shaped like a triangle -- the gay-pride symbol."

When I first heard this, my immediate reaction was, "Oh come on!! No one would think that! This is really reaching....just because Tinky Winky is purple...?"

I then found out that the possible "gayness" of Tinky Winky was far from a new observation. The Reverend Falwell was not the first person to mention this. That's right. Other media outlets have previously reported, since 1997, that Tinky Winky is or could be gay. In fact, there were rumors that the character would be pulled because of the possible sexual orientation, but it obviously wasn't.

Some Facts:
On the 24th of December, 1997 CNN reported that Tinky Winky was gay.
"The Teletubbies also have a following among the gay community. Tinky Winky, who carts around a red handbag but speaks with a male voice, has become something of a gay icon." CNN, 12/24/97
On April 17, 1998, the Village Voice praised the Teletubbies series for their gay Tinky Winky character.

On January 1, 1999, in its New Year's IN/OUT list, The Washington Post anointed "Tinky Winky, the gay Teletubby," as next year's Ellen DeGeneres.

In 1997, when the BBC, which produces the show, wanted to fire the human who plays Tinky for dancing in the streets wearing only a balloon, gay groups protested. It has also been reported that some gay groups have "claimed Tinky Winky as their own". (Washington Post, February 11, 1999, Page C01)

So why the sudden media frenzy? It's pretty simple. Publications such as the Village Voice praised the Teletubbies; Jerry Falwell criticized them. The former is obviously more politically correct. The reason the Teletubbies have become the latest hot topic is because a publication reported that the character could be gay and criticized it. It was the criticism that caused this to become a story - not the fact that someone suggested that Tinky Winky could be gay. But to hear the media reports, you'd think that The Liberty Journal was the first and only publication or media outlet to suggest such a thing.

Perhaps the people at The Liberty Journal would not have published this new...wait, this OLD, information about Tinky Winky if it hadn't been reported here and there since 1997. Where was all this investigative reporting when the Washington Post carried the information in January 1999? Did all the news stations carry the statements made by the Village Voice back in 1998? This is a perfect example of how the media twists such a situation. The Teletubbies are ALL OVER the news, and all the news programs are acting as if this is the FIRST TIME anyone had suggested such a "ridiculous" thing. The impression people are left with is that the Reverend Falwell just thought up some outlandish thing and applied it to a children's show. No matter what one's view is on homosexuality, this should be seen as totally unfair. Somehow a "scandal" erupts when a publication which doesn't condone homosexuality reports what has already been published elsewhere. Is the media that hard up for newsworthy items?

This article copyright © 1999 by Carolyn Gargaro and may not be reproduced in any form without the express written consent of its author. All rights reserved.