22 Years After Tinky Winky 'Scandal,' Teletubbies Come Out With 'Pride Collection'

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Saturday May 22, 2021
Originally published on May 21, 2021

It's been more than two decades since televangelist Jerry Falwell, clutching at rainbow-colored straws, claimed one of the Teletubbies — Tinky Winky, the purple one with the triangular antenna — is gay. Now the children's show icons have come out all on their own... with a Pride-themed streetwear collection, that is.

May 20 marked the release of the Teletubbies Pride Collection, which, according to Yahoo! News, offers "a handful of '90s-vintage-vibe fashion looks... with proceeds to benefit nonprofit LGBTQ media monitor GLAAD."

The company behind the colorful characters, WildBrain Ltd., issued a press release announcing that the primary-colored foursome would be "celebrating their rainbow-colored diversity and love of Big Hugs" this Pride season.

"This Pride Month, the iconic Teletubbies brand is celebrating the importance of self-expression and acceptance in a unique and uplifting way, while giving back to create change," GLAAD's Senior Director of Business Development & Integrated Marketing John McCourt said in the release.

As it is described, the collection "is centered around two themes - 'Big Hugs, Big Love' and 'Teletubbies Love Pride'" and includes fashions referencing the Teletubbies' "signature colors and antennae shapes."

It only took a combination of color and shape — plus a red handbag — to prompt Falwell to pen a now-infamous piece for the National Liberty Journal, titled "Parents Alert: Tinky Winky Comes Out of the Closet," zeroing in on the character's hue and headpiece.

"He is purple — the gay pride color, and his antenna is shaped like a triangle — the gay pride symbol," Falwell writes in the 1999 article, citing those characteristics as "evidence that the creators of the series intend Tinky Winky to be a gay role model."

Falwell also claimed Tinky Winky had "become a favorite character among gay groups worldwide." As further proof of the character's LGBTQ credentials, Falwell pointed to Tinky Winky's voice — "obviously that of a boy" — and fretted that the Teletubby "has been found carrying a red purse."

The article prompted more in the way of chuckles than crusades, however, once the mainstream media took up the story. According to a spokesperson, Itsy Bitsy Entertainment — the company that licensed the British show for American distribution — scoffed that "the fact that he carries a magic bag doesn't make him gay. It's a children's show, folks."

Described by WildBrain Ltd. as "both iconic and nostalgic," the '90s-style Pride Collection includes "a bucket hat, sling bag, muscle tee and tube socks" and "a limited quantity of bespoke, made-to-order two-piece suits."

Fans looking to complete their ensemble with a red handbag will have to look elsewhere, sadly, since no such accessory is included in the inaugural Teletubbies Pride Collection.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.