The actor who played the iconic Tinky Winky character in UK children’s TV series the Teletubbies has died.
Simon Shelton Barnes from Bedfordshire in the East of England has died aged 52.
He was the brother-in-law of Poldark actor Robert Daws and uncle of Inbetweeners star Emily Atack.
She has since posted a heartfelt Instagram account where she says:
‘My wonderful uncle Simon Barnes has been taken from us all so suddenly. The kindest and most talented man you could ever wish to meet. Loved by all who knew him, and will be forever. X’
The Teletubbies became an overnight success for the BBC during the 1990s, with millions of children tuning in to watch.
Carrying a handbag was Barnes’s character, Tinky Winky’s trademark. It was just one of the reasons there has long been a lot of debate over whether Tinky Winky was actually ‘gay.’
Was Tinky Winky gay?
It was initially sparked by Jerry Falwell an American Southern Baptist pastor who made a name for himself by attacking gay people.
One prominent example came after Ellen DeGeneres’ sitcom character came out in 1997 – he called her ‘Ellen Degenerate’ in response.
Following that, he went on ‘to discover’ one of the Teletubbies was gay.
He called Tinky Winky a ‘gay role model’ because he carried what looked like a woman’s handbag. Going on to warn parents he could be a ‘covert homosexual symbol’ because ‘he is purple, the gay pride color.’
The BBC denied the show had any connotations to sexuality. But the battleground was set, and the gay Teletubby debate raged.
Laa-Laa insists Teletubbies is ‘not gay’
The actress who played Laa-Laa in the cult children’s TV show finally insisted the colorful characters were not gay in after years of rumors.
Nikki Smedley broke her silence over Laa-Laa, Tinky Winky, Dipsy and Po’s sexuality in 2012.
‘I think it’s embarrassing for the people who said it,’ she told the Birmingham Mail.
‘What kind of person can take the obvious innocence and turn it into something else? We were hardly sexual beings.’
But the original actor of Tinky Winky, Dave Thompson, quickly left the show after the ‘gay handbag’ storm.
The Sun, who looked back where all the original actors are now, reported that the show’s production company felt the actor had misinterpreted the role by implying Tinky Winky was gay.
But all in all, a Slate piece titled ‘Yep, the purple Teletubby was gay’ did on go on to argue:
‘Falwell was wrong about Tinky Winky’s supposed harm to children. But he wasn’t wrong that children’s television – and culture in general – was becoming much more comfortable with queerness.’
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