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Time for Teletubbies: Resistance is Futile
September 5, 2012 11:58 AM   Subscribe

Time for Teletubbies: Radical Utopian Fiction - how the BBC children's show reveals our posthuman future.
posted by Artw (27 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
All I know is, Teletubbies were wonderful watching when stuck at home with the flu.
posted by BungaDunga at 12:06 PM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Flu-germs... Or cognition realigning nanites?
posted by Artw at 12:15 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I always thought the Teletubbies were horrifying - now I know why.
posted by LN at 12:22 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh God, they really are tumid Eloi, aren't they?
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:24 PM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Of course, "Tinky-Winky" was not the name I was born with. That's my Television Name. Soon, all of us will have special names — names designed to cause the cathode ray tube to resonate...
posted by Iridic at 12:28 PM on September 5, 2012 [9 favorites]


I've always thought of the Teletubbies as taking place after some terrible catastrophe has wiped out human civilisation. The Teletubbies aren't what humans became: they're the safe, happy, soft, educational, proto-sentient vat-grown cyborgs the future humans would leave their preschoolers in the care of all day. With all the ethical problems that creating at least semi-intelligent life for that purpose implies.

For whatever reason, the Tubbies in this particular creche survived the apocalypse. The caretaker AI, through its giggling baby face in the microenvironment's sun, keeps them fed with protein slurry 'custard' and runs the happy, friendly automated cleaners. It's aware that something is wrong and doesn't have the authorisation to put the Teletubbies back in cold storage, but it can see how agitated they're becoming with no children around, so as an act of kindness it sends a few minutes of footage featuring kids to their receivers every day. The Teletubbies just run through all their instinctive care and teaching routines while the dust storms rage outside, across miles of identical, cracked-open domes each containing four sad little biomechanical skeletons.

In their fuzzy child-like consciousnesses, the Teletubbies are excited for the day some real children will come to the dome. They were designed to love hugs and playtime and gentle teaching. But no children ever will.

I'm still convinced this is canon; In The Night Garden is set in the same universe and is stuffed with biotech and clear evidence of post-apocalypse adaptation to fill survival niches!
posted by emmtee at 12:29 PM on September 5, 2012 [60 favorites]


This is wonderful! Thanks!

Shortly after I saw the Teletubbies for the first time, I came to similar conclusions, deciding that they were probably alien babies in some giant nursery, designed to educate them using simple human films as metaphors until they could join the adult world of the alien race. Humans, being extinct in this time, would have been exotic but harmless, and would look similar enough to the Teletubbies to impart lessons.

But what if this nursery went unchecked? What if the 'tubbies were never released? What if a natural disaster hit the adults, leaving this education-pod-world on its own? The 'tubbies would eventually become frustrated with the limitations of their little world as they grew older, developing an antagonistic relationship to the baby-faced sun. In the last stage of their growth, there could be no greater goal than the destruction of the sun itself, and a cracking of the great firmament of Sky as they attempted to move beyond their simple playground of a life and into the universe proper.

At this point I began imagining what they would look like in their adult forms, and which of the four would be the most aggressive, which might be given to domination of the others, and this frightened me, so then I put these thoughts aside.
posted by Greg Nog at 12:29 PM on September 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


The windmill represents an oppressive regime. The 'Tubbies may think they're happy -- you may think they're happy -- but look at their pain as they squirm on the ground. A nightmare indeed.
posted by run"monty at 12:39 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


At this point I began imagining what they would look like in their adult forms, and which of the four would be the most aggressive, which might be given to domination of the others, and this frightened me, so then I put these thoughts aside.

You must not have read the linked article because you have this precisely backwards. Your nightmare is merely the human condition. Teletubbies represent a post-human potentiality where all anxiety/gratification cycles have been reduced to "What's on TV?" And even this dilemma is mostly resolved because, Teletubbies is what's on TV and the TV is what's on the teletubbies...

Long Live the New Flesh!
posted by ennui.bz at 12:43 PM on September 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


I constantly think I would been happier if I took a good enough hammer blow to the head. Please make me like a Teletubbie.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:55 PM on September 5, 2012


Don't we already have a thread where we learn that we make our own anxiety/gratification cycles by canning our own food and learning to run screw lathes in response to our elaborate environment of technological attendants?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:59 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm still convinced this is canon; In The Night Garden is set in the same universe and is stuffed with biotech and clear evidence of post-apocalypse adaptation to fill survival niches!

Now explain how Lazy Town fits in.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:12 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


emmtee: "I'm still convinced this is canon; In The Night Garden is set in the same universe and is stuffed with biotech and clear evidence of post-apocalypse adaptation to fill survival niches!"

I require further explanation of this theory.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:15 PM on September 5, 2012


Recent reality shows such as ‘The Only Way is Essex’ baffled me until I realized they must make perfect sense to a generation reared on the Teletubbies: primary-coloured figures spouting gibberish and frolicking repetetively in a stylized landscape.
posted by misteraitch at 1:20 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


In the last stage of their growth, there could be no greater goal than the destruction of the sun itself

Since the beginning of time, Teletubbies have yearned to destroy the sun.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:52 PM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Look at what they call a "house"! And the narrator is clearly an AI, deep in the uncanny valley
posted by junco at 1:58 PM on September 5, 2012


That was in reply to Rock Steady's post.
posted by junco at 1:59 PM on September 5, 2012


Next up: Freud vs. Boobah.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:03 PM on September 5, 2012


Ukrainian Group Wants to Ban Spongebob and Teletubbies for Homosexuality and Idiocy, Respectively
posted by homunculus at 2:33 PM on September 5, 2012


From homunculus' link:

Also on the chopping block — “South Park” for its “reincarnation propaganda”...

Huh?

...and Shrek for its “sadism.”

You'll get no argument from me.
posted by brundlefly at 2:41 PM on September 5, 2012


TUBBY CUSTARD IS PEOPLE!
posted by mazola at 2:45 PM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I require further explanation of this theory.

The Night Garden facility is (or was) a state-of-the-art biotechnology research and trialling facility, with the actual labs built below a huge microclimate dome to provide a realistic testing environment. We're watching the handful of prototypes in active testing at the time of the Event as they try to form some kind of social heirarchy. All of the others are either still in cold storage or starved to death in their holding pens.

The Ninky Nonk and Pinky Ponk are sapient, biomechanical vehicles trialling some sort of experimental miniaturisation tech - the Ninky Nonk is playing a dangerous game trying to prove itself useful by simply offering transportation to the other inhabitants of the garden, while the Pinky Ponk has gone a step further and used its onboard chemical plant to synthesise an addictive 'juice' in order to keep the much larger creatures dependent on it.

Makka Pakka was intended as some kind of domestic construct, hence its obsession with cleaning. Its instincts have actually proved pretty useful in the post-abandonment Garden, driving it to find a cave 'house' and stockpile smooth, clean stones. As weapons. Should it come to that.

Upsy Daisy was another childcare unit, possibly an analogue of the Teletubbies for use in the home. Its bed is an entirely separate bio-construct which mostly serves to process protein paste into energy for its simple partner unit, which lacks a digestive system. Its repeated attempts to escape this nightmare existence are due to an unfortunate oversight in the design process furnishing it with far more intelligence than was necessary. This probably would have come out in the review process, if everyone weren't dead.

The Pontipines, Wottingers and Tombliboos are all muddling through the first stages of forming tribal societies, instinctively drawn to their own kind and shunning the others. The automated monitoring systems in the lab proper are blaring klaxons and flashing red lights day and night in warning over this, but there's nobody left to hear.

Finally, Iggle Piggle was a lab assistant construct, kind of a bumbling, goonish but lovable mascot to the scientists at the Night Garden. Every night, when he's done 'observing' the progress of the constructs in the microenvironment, he travels back across the lake the other prototypes were conditioned to fear and wanders the darkened, sterile halls, carefully stepping over contorted skeletons without really understanding what they are. He's kept the place nice and tidy for when the people come back. He's sure they will.
posted by emmtee at 2:46 PM on September 5, 2012 [15 favorites]


"Like the Borg..."

Once again, Adam Roberts effortlessly proves why he's my favourite contemporary novelist.
posted by specialbrew at 2:54 PM on September 5, 2012


The Night Garden facility is (or was) a state-of-the-art biotechnology research and trialling facility, with the actual labs built below a huge microclimate dome bank of greenhouses to provide a realistic testing environment.

This describes one of the buildings where I used to work almost exactly, but it belonged to that other company.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 4:38 PM on September 5, 2012


Ukrainian Group Wants to Ban Spongebob and Teletubbies for Homosexuality and Idiocy, Respectively

Congratulations, Ukraine, on catching up to mid-2000s American paranoia about late-1990s kids' shows!
posted by Sys Rq at 5:15 PM on September 5, 2012


*slow clap for emmtee, slowly building to rousing standing ovation*
posted by Rock Steady at 5:29 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


This reminds me of the gay Tinky Winky conspiracy theory.
posted by mippy at 3:09 AM on September 6, 2012


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