A subversive shade of purple

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Even before I open the door, I know something is amiss. There are paper cutout flowers growing from the doorknob, and a strange, banjo-heavy music emanating from the living room. I cringe, expecting to find the Lizard of Fun in one of its "I’m having a rave in my own mind" moods. Not quite.

"Eh-oh!" says the Lizard, turning off the TV and running up to give me a biiiig hug. It’s got an upside-down coat hanger stuck to its head, and the screen of my Powerbook duct-taped to its torso. Its eyes are glazed over like the night the Dearborn Krispy Kreme opened and it tried to eat a dozen doughnuts at once.

"Shall I call 911?"

"I’m doing research," reports the Lizard. "Those Teletubby things? They’re the spawn of Satan, you know."

I try to swat the Lizard with my copy of the Fortean Times, a British magazine that reports all the weird stuff that happens in the world – such as crop circles and claims of UFO abductions and apparitions of the Virgin Mary on a plate of pancakes at IHOP ("What, no Elvis sightings?" asks the Lizard through a mouthful of pink Tubby Custard. "No Jerry Falwell quotes yet, either," I note.)

According to this esteemed journal, the world is indeed getting weirder – 4.1 percent weirder than last year, in fact. I’m not sure how they measure the weirdness, but remember, this journal and the Teletubbies come from the same country. Coincidence? I think not.

The real weirdness, of course, is that Jerry Falwell, the one-time Sunday morning televangelist who put the "pay" in "pray," would suddenly pay attention to "Teletubbies" in the first place. Was he thinking of starting a show on weekday mornings, and did he then decide to check out the competition?

Clearly Falwell, a clever decoder of symbols and semiotic information, noticed Tinky’s purple fur, the triangle on his head, his occasional donning of a tutu and his red patent leather magic bag, and drew the same conclusion that a gang of seniors at a suburban Chicago nursing home have been gossiping about since last fall.

Tinky-Winky is gay!

And? This is hardly news. Perhaps Falwell could assess the rest of the Teletubbies for further indications of their sexual preferences.

Would Dipsy, with his straight up-and-down antenna, be straight? ("But he’s green, which definitely makes him an environmentalist," notes the Lizard of Fun.) And does that mean Laa-Laa, with her bent antenna, is also gay?

What about Po, with a circle that’s clearly meant to be a womens’ symbol on her head? Since she’s got red fur, she must be a Marxist feminist, right?

Why not? While Falwell has obviously swallowed (and spewed) a few Mars-sized stereotypes, why not assume that the Teletubbies are a hip, diverse, millennial gang of whateverthehecktheyares? Surely they’d make for better role models for their toddler audiences than someone who condemns fictional characters based on some irrational prejudice.

Noticing that I’m beginning to fume, the Lizard dashes to the rescue. "Chill," it says, handing me a box of frozen Girl Scout cookies.

Now, if Falwell is looking for something to get his nose in a knot about, maybe he should order a case of Tagalongs from his local Girl Scout troop. ("Jerry Falwell is in a Girl Scout troop?" shouts the Lizard. "Shut up," I chide. "It’s supposed to be a secret.")

Tagalongs, you see, are more than a peanut butter cup disguised as a cookie. Dan Savage, a sex advice columnist who makes our Isadora Alman look prudish, reported the truth in his recent book, Savage Love: The Brutal Truth From America’s Favorite Advice Columnist.

According to Savage, there’s a radical lesbian subtext in the story on the Tagalongs box, which makes seemingly innocent mention of "water sports," "strokes" and "On Our Backs" ("Hey, isn’t that that cool lesbian erotica magazine we picked up last time we were in San Francisco?" asks the Lizard. "The one you got in a fight with the airport security over?" "Yup," I answer.)

As far as Savage is concerned, it’s a très cool sneak attack, planted by the same folks who designed the Earring Magic Ken doll.

But such interpretations are taken differently, depending on who’s got the secret decoder mood ring. When it’s worn by a known bigot, it’s seen as condemnation. When it comes from Savage, a self-proclaimed faggot, it’s a resounding affirmation of a stealth victory for lesbian visibility ("You go, girls!" shouts the Lizard).

Falwell, of course, would probably invoke the power of the almighty to win a debate like this. After all, God must know who’s right and who’s bound for a quick zap from the heavens.

I wonder if he’s read the story in the Fortean Times about the 11 members of a soccer team in the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to the journal of the weird, lightning struck all 11 players, killing them instantly. The opposing team was untouched.

Rumor has it that the ones who survived were all wearing purple.

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