Where do they find these guys?

The Ridiculous Right
(say it ain't so, Barney)
by James R. Petersen
From The Playboy Forum, December 1995

The Reverend Joseph Chambers, a Pentecostal minister from Charlotte, North Carolina, has decided that two beloved American figures are poster boys for depravity. We're speaking, of course, of Bert and Ernie.

"They're two grown men sharing a house -- and a bedroom!" bellows Chambers, who has a radio ministry that broadcasts in four Southern states. "They share clothes. They eat and cook together. They vacation together and have effeminate characteristics. In one show Bert teaches Ernie how to sew. In another they tend plants together. If this isn't meant to represent a homosexual union, I can't imagine what it's supposed to represent."

Chambers is also the author of "Barney: The Purple Messiah" -- a tract that denounces the world's most insipid dinosaur as a tool of Satan and homosexuals. It's not just that Barney is purple (a clear sign of deviant sexuality); Chambers sees a greater threat: "Barney is much more than just a fun creature of kids' imaginations. He is a politically correct teacher of everything on the liberal left's agenda, from New Age evolution to radical ecology.

"To many children Barney has become a guru of sorts. He teaches transcendental thought and mystical ideas. Nothing comes through Barney's teachings more clearly than the New Age idea of using our minds to create miracles. No one should deny that positive or negative thinking can tremendously affect our lives. But such powers are clearly physical and end with the normal experiences we enjoy. God alone is supernatural."

And here's the heavy stuff: "The idea of a seance is at the forefront of almost every "Barney" program. On one show Mother Goose talks to the children from one of her books. Led by Barney, the children commune with Mother Goose and conduct a seance to bring her to them. As they sing and dance their little ditty she -- poof! -- appears in their presence. The Bible calls that necromancy and says a person who participates in such behavior is an abomination unto the Lord. This kind of occult activity fills the "Barney" material. Conjuring someone up is certainly not kids' play."

It would be funny if it weren't so fashionable among the religious tight to attack PBS -- home of Bert, Ernie and Barney -- for sponsoring "anti-Christian" programming. They call it the culture war -- Saturday morning cartoons versus Sunday morning sermons. Who will win the souls of our children? In Chambers' view, everything that happens outside of church is the work of Satan -- including the antics of big puppets.

Chambers' most recent target is "The Lion King," which he denounces as "the newest idolatry and witchcraft being pawned off on the children of America." Among other things, Chambers says, the animated movie promotes voodoo, necromancy (see Barney), astrology and ESP. Our favorite religious dingbat, the Reverend Donald Wildmon, has joined the battle against Disney, claiming that two stars of "The Lion King" -- Timon the meerkat and Pumbaa the warthog - are "the first homosexual Disney characters ever to come to the screen."

Wildmon latched on to an interview with Ernie Sabella and Nathan Lane (the actors who provided voices for the cartoon characters) that ran in the New York Times. "Timon is a feisty little cheerful fellow," Lane says. "He and Pumbaa seem to have a very nice arrangement -- though I couldn't say what the extent of their relationship is."

Sabella laughingly dismisses the suggestion, saying, "I know what Nathan says about them -- these are the first homosexual Disney characters ever to come to the screen. You can call Timon a gay character. Just don't say he reminds you of Jackie Gleason."

And then there's the American Life League, a Virginia-based anti-abortion group. The group claims that clouds in "The Lion King" form the word sex over Simba's head, that the minister in "The Little Mermaid" has a hard-on and that a voice on the soundtrack of "Aladdin" urges, "Good teenagers, take off your clothes."

Finding Satan's hand in the world of entertainment is almost as old as religion. The Roman philosopher Tertullian condemned the "pleasures of the spectacle" -- exhorting his fellow Christians to avoid wrestling, chariot racing, the circus, the theater and the show of gladiators. But our modern crusaders are fixated on art forms that are far less adult. That Chambers and Wildmon find deviance lurking behind a child's delight is not surprising. Their view of sexuality is a cartoon. We hear that Chambers next target will be the incredibly decadent and morally mischievous Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. When will the ridiculous right grow up?

Graphic Rule

Teletubbies' Tinky Winky
Is 'Outed' By Falwell

February 10, 1999

Washington (Reuters) -- First President Clinton and now Tinky Winky. America's sex cops are on the job, and not even the Teletubbies are safe.

The largest of the four amorphous characters on the British-made children's television show has been "outed" by the Rev. Jerry Falwell.

Against the backdrop of cries of "sexual McCarthyism" over the exposure and pursuit of Clinton, members of Congress and others for inappropriate amorous exploits, Falwell decided to expose Tinky Winky in the current issue of his monthly magazine "National Liberty Journal."

"The character, whose voice is obviously that of a boy, has been found carrying a red purse in many episodes and has become a favorite character among gay groups worldwide," it said.

Further evidence cited included the fact that the androgynous Tinky Winky is purple -- the gay pride color, and the antenna on his head is shaped like a triangle -- the gay pride symbol.

"These subtle depictions are no doubt intentional, and parents are warned to be alert to these elements of the series," the magazine said.

Falwell did not address the sexual proclivities of La La, Po and Dipsy who are equally shapeless yellow, red and green characters with squiggly antennae and television screens in their tummies.

They live in a kind of high-tech igloo with a bug-eyed vacuum cleaner, surrounded by grass, rabbits and flowers. At the end of each show, a periscope rises from the ground and summons them to "Teletubby bye-bye."

The show premiered in England in 1997 and came to the United States last year where it has been a hit for PBS. Teletubbies interactive dolls are set to go on the market next month.

Falwell's magazine said Tinky Winky's sexuality had been the subject of debate for some time, pointing to the annual "What's In and What's Out" list in the Washington Post.

The magazine said that this year, Tinky Winky's photograph appeared opposite that of actress Ellen DeGeneres, implying that DeGeneres, star of the television sit-com "Ellen," was "out" as the chief national gay symbol, while Tinky Winky was the trendy "in" celebrity.

Graphic Rule

The Animated Thinking
of Rev. Jerry Falwell
by Woody Johnson
(Cliff Walker's pen name for sexually related material)

February, 1999

I'm sure you've heard about Jerry Falwell slamming Tinky-Winky of the Teletubbies TV program as a gay role model. I first must question the chain of causality. Did the producers intend for this to happen, or did the gay community simply pick up on it? Is it even true? or was TV character Ellen's replacement as the gay role model simply the fruitful ponderings of the writer of the "What's In and What's Out" column in the Washington Post?

Besides, what self-respecting queen wears an all-purple outfit -- carrying a red purse?

Jerry Falwell says, "As a Christian I feel that role modeling the gay lifestyle is damaging to the moral lives of children."

And this from the man who, only days before, publicly pronounced that the long-awaited "antichrist" would be a Jewish man.

I respond: As an atheist, I say that role modeling the conservative Christian mode of thinking, particularly by televangelists, is damaging not only to the moral lives of children, but to the rest of society as well. Most mainstream Christians find Falwell's antics extremely embarrassing; this is why Falwell is pretty much of a nothing these days, even in Christian circles. I think the only proper way to counter this is to follow the example of Voltaire: let's all give this behavior the loud belly laugh it deserves.

We used to watch Woody Woodpecker as kids. We all knew what a pecker was, and it wasn't until later that we discovered the woody. But nobody ever said anything about Walter Lantz's cartoon. Is the Falwell phenomenon new?

Old or new, Falwell is not the only TV preacher who displays a sub-cartoon mentality. The Reverend Joseph Chambers, a Pentecostal minister from Charlotte, North Carolina, says that Bert and Ernie are "two grown men sharing a house -- and a bedroom! ... They share clothes. They eat and cook together. They vacation together and have effeminate characteristics."

(But are they, like gay men, banned from vacationing in some Caribbean countries?)

Rev. Chambers continues his exposition: "In one show Bert teaches Ernie how to sew.... If this isn't meant to represent a homosexual union, I can't imagine what it's supposed to represent."

Chambers also denounces Barney, the world's most insipid dinosaur, as a tool of Satan and homosexuals. His tract Barney: The Purple Messiah, warns, "Barney ... is a politically correct teacher of everything on the liberal left's agenda, from New Age evolution to radical ecology."

(Atheists relax: Evolution is now foisted upon us by that wicked New Age movement.)

Chambers: "The idea of a seance is at the forefront of almost every 'Barney' program.... Led by Barney, the children commune with Mother Goose and conduct a seance to bring her to them. As they sing and dance their little ditty she -- poof! -- appears in their presence."

Rumors about Walt Disney animated films such as "Aladdin" are still circulating, even though Wall Street Journal staff reporter Lisa Bannon tracked down the sources of these lies in an October, 1995, article. Bannon tediously followed the trail beyond conservative Christian TV shows and publications back to one Matthew Ford, a college senior at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls.

Ford said, "We watch movies to try to find mistakes all the time. Like, there's a car in the background of 'Maverick' when Mel Gibson is talking to the Indians.... We were ... watching 'Aladdin' and I couldn't figure out something he was saying. I said, 'Rewind that,' and then we heard it." According to Ford, Aladdin says, "All good teenagers take off your clothes." Ford added, "My friends think it's funny because it's a Disney movie."

Aladdin's line is actually, "Scat, good tiger, take off and go," says a Disney spokesperson.

No less than Rush Limbaugh lauded the Journal article on his show, denouncing those who spread the rumors.

Another Disney rumor describes a scene from "The Lion King" in which dust spells out the word "sex." It doesn't.

In a scene from "The Little Mermaid," it was said that a bishop becomes sexually aroused while presiding over a wedding ceremony. Tom Sito, who drew the bishop, said, "If I wanted to put ... messages in a movie, you would see it. This is silly."

I remember watching a cartoon where a puppy was chasing butterflies in a field. The background plants looked suspiciously like marijuana. Do animators get bored with their work? Sometimes they do.

Another direct drug reference was from Woody Woodpecker: Woody, renting a room in Wally Walrus' home, was up to his usual no good. Wally storms upstairs, grabs the Rules list, and holds it up. One of the rules was "No Opium Smoking."

I've seen flashes of nipple on those 1980s-era Japanese Science-Fiction TV cartoons.

This is not surprising: film critic Roger Ebert reported in May of 1995 on the popular Japanese animated film, "Pompoko," which features a family of cute badger-like animals. The badgers' secret weapon is an ability to make their testicles grow large so that they can crush opponents. Kids in Japan find the secret weapon "hilarious."

Mister Rogers has come under attack, most notably by National Lampoon. This is, perhaps, justified. Here are the lyrics to an old Mister Rogers song called "It's Such a Good Feeling":

We cannot know whether Fred Rogers knew, when he wrote it, how his song could be taken; however, we can be certain he is aware of it now. The official Mister Rogers website has posted an updated version of the lyrics in question:

Not to be outdone, the Smurfs recorded the song, "You're a Pink Toothbrush."

Remember Pee-Wee Herman.

At the drug store I noticed a display of cartoon-motif bubble bath, such as Barbie and Tinkerbell. What caught my eye was Johnson's Woody Bath Bubbles. I was well into adulthood before I learned about the Johnson.

I always wondered about Snagglepuss -- the pink cat with the pronounced North Hollywood accent -- though, as a kid, I couldn't pin it down. Heavens to Mergatroid! No Falwell types ever ordered him to "Exit, stage right!"

Too much exposure to the Jerry Falwells of this world can make a person downright paranoid -- or, at minimum, very inconsistent. According to a Purdue University study, Christians who are the most avid in their religious beliefs are more likely than others to be overweight, with Southern Baptists leading the list. "I fit the mold," said Falwell to a Newhouse News Service reporter in May, 1998. However, he said, "I don't think God gives a flip either way." Even Jerry doesn't believe his Bible god who, in Deuteronomy 21:18-21, ordered that a child who is, among other things, gluttonous, must be executed by stoning.

Falwell isn't the only one, and children's cartoons aren't the only target.

Dr. Donald Webster, fellow of the Royal College of Organists, holder of the Archbishop of Canterbury's diploma in church music and author of the 1994 book The Hymn Explosion and Its Aftermath, finds hymns replete with double entendres that may escape the average choir member.

But they don't escape the mind of Dr. Webster. He rails against lurid lyrics like

Says Webster, "These hymns lend themselves to the kind of microphone-licking and hip-swaying gestures you see on 'Top of the Pops.'"

Former Jehovah's Witness Darek Barefoot wrote a book called Jehovah's Witnesses & The Hour of Darkness, in which he makes convincing cases that Watchtower and Awake! magazines contain barely perceptible images of a dark nature. He shows one of a dog in the breast of the crucified Jesus, one of the Roman god Jupiter in the cloak of a woman peddling Awake! on a street corner, one of a skull who's teeth spell "JAH," and one of a little green man in the bushes of a baptism scene.

Falwell, though, seems as if he is trying to fit the image of that proverbial member of the censorship committee who joined just so he could watch the smut.

In 1994, a Jacksonville, Florida, TV station pulled the plug on the Falwell's "Old Time Gospel Hour" because of the explicitness of Falwell's attacks against President Clinton, particularly the gubernatorial philandering alleged against him. Parents became concerned when their youngsters began to ask questions about oral sex.

With the latest incidents, though, Falwell is shooting himself in the foot. Again. His values being what they are, we can expect Falwell to make an ass of himself before the public. Let's give Falwell and his ilk the laffs they deserve.

The point is not whether he can make a case against Tinky-Winky or Bert and Ernie: he probably can. The real point is that the value of exclusivism, and the accompanying need to enforce it, is pre-totem thinking from before the Stone Age.

Such beliefs, as core values, are not fit even for a band of troglodytes.

Graphic Rule