Teletubbies as Freudian posthuman dystopia

Time for Teletubbies: Radical Utopian Fiction

It seems clear from the world of the Teletubbies that, whether alien or posthuman, they come from a technologically advanced culture. Like the Borg they have assimilated technological devices into their own bodies, but unlike the wholly technological/artificial worlds of the Borg they have chosen to inhabit an environment shaped largely by the aesthetics of the natural world. We have, then, a disparity between (on the one hand) the high degree of intelligence and technological know-how needed to build the 'tubbies home, their automated toasters and vacuum-cleaners, the periscopes, the broadcasting tower and all that; and (on the other) the evident puerility and immaturity of the Teletubbies themselves. Rather that reading this in terms of parental abandonment, I suggest a reading more in keeping with the traditions of SF.

The Teletubbies, I'd suggest, are contemporary versions of Wells's Eloi, those indolent foppish creatures from The Time Machine. Indeed, they are a more thoroughly-worked through rendering of the Eloi mode of life. [...] Imagine a culture that develops such sophisticated technical prostheses that its inhabitants no longer need to work, to worry, to strive in any way. Imagine those inhabitants, through choice or through evolutionary pressure, losing all stress-related functions of adult consciousness: work-ethic, conscience, guilt, lust, anger, avarice.

The machines in Teletubbyland, in other words, are the devices necessary to free mankind from its attachment to the adult world of necessity, provision and work. And once freed from those constraints, the show suggests, evolution or choice leads life back into the calm, bright satisfactions of toddlerdom. [...]

We might see it as a pretty nugatory paradise that did not involve sex, or other adult hedonisms. But this is to ignore Freud's central insight: adult human pleasure must mediate id and superego; it has no choice about this. Gratification always entails anxiety, and for many people the relationship is linear, such that greater gratification involves, and even depends upon, greater anxiety. If we want a life free of stress, a fret-free angst-free life we must give up the superego, and with it our adult natures. We must become again as little children.

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2 Responses:

  1. Nick Thompson says:

    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.