The Theological Significance of Tinky Winky
Tinky Winky, gay?
Au contraire. As any person of faith who has ever watched Teletubbies understands, Tinky Winky is actually a powerful symbol of God's word made flesh. Or rather, plush. First of all, Tinky Winky is purple, the color of royalty and the ancient priesthood. As it is written in The Song of Songs, "Thine head upon thee [is] like Carmel, and the hair of thine head like purple; the king [is] held in the galleries." Unlike pink and lavender, purple is a noble hue. While The Artist Formerly Known as Prince and the National Organization for Women have attempted to co-opt it, its history as the color of kings and priests cannot be erased. Tinky Winky's fur is thus meant to remind us of the presence of the divine in our lives.
The triangular antenna on Tinky Winky's head represents the three sides of the Holy Trinity Abba, Christ, and Holy Spirit. The intent is clearly to tell us to tune our own spiritual antenna to God, to "be attuned" to God's teachings.
As for Tinky Winky's purse, or "magic bag," this feminine attribute is obviously meant to hearken back to King David, who also carried a little bag. As is written in Samuel 1740, "Then he [David] took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd's bag." From this bag came the stone that killed Goliath.
Who knows what heroic tools will come from the bag of Tinky Winky? The show has been on the air for less than a year.
The similarities between David and Tinky Winky go further. David carried his lyre, a stringed harp-like girlie instrument, constantly, and like Tinky Winky, he was constantly singing little songs. "This is my only request," he sang, "To dwell in the House of YHWH all the days of my life, to behold the sweetness of Godde and to be like a visitor in Godde's sanctuary." Tinky Winky, meanwhile, sings, Pinkle Winkle, Tinky Winky" and dwells in the Tubbytronic Superdome. I think the parallels are obvious.
I acknowledge one problematic element to this Teletubby-Davidian reading. David's relationship with his friend Jonathan was far, far closer than that of Tinky Winky and Dipsy, the only other male Teletubby. David said of Jonathan, "Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women" (2 Samuel 126). "Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt" (1 Samuel 183-4) "...And they kissed one another and wept with one another, until David exceeded" (1 Samuel 2041).
As we all know, Tinky Winky is only casually friendly with Dipsy; he reserves his greatest affection for Po, the daintiest, highest-voiced, femme-iest Teletubby. Future scholars will, we hope, work through this discrepancy.
Scholars believe that from the seed of David will come the Messiah. (The Messiah is not to be confused with the Antichrist -- also a descendant of David -- a Jewish man who is probably alive today, according to Falwell. In fact, he is probably Adam Sandler.) It is to be trusted that similar greatness will spring from the fluffy loins of Tinky Winky. A close analysis of Tinky Winky's activities -- eating Tubby Custard, jumping, dancing happy dances, chasing balloons, making kites, demanding hugs, and consorting with the Noo Noo (a vacuum cleaner) -- has much to reveal about us, our values, and our relationship to popular culture.
R. Jean Brownlee Term Professor
Department of Religious Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6304
Lecturer, Anthropology Department
and Resident Scholar, Women's Studies Program
Brandeis University MS 006
Waltham, MA 02454-9110
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Archaeologist, Historian, Mythologist, Linguist, Humanist Minister
Member, American School of Classical Studies at Athens, Greece
Associate Director, Institute for Historical Accuracy
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