Anti-Barney humor

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Cover of The Jihad to Destroy Barney (1990s) roleplaying guidebook.

Anti-Barney humor is a form of humor that targets the children's television series Barney & Friends. The notion that the show is "saccharine", "boring", "annoying", "sugary", "dangerous" or "uneducational" has made the program a target for parody and negative attacks by children of various ages, adolescents, and many adults in the United States and elsewhere.

History

Almost immediately after Barney and Friends first aired in 1992, the result was that it mesmerized and fascinated many young viewers under the age of four, but was strongly disapproved by most older children and young adults, who criticized it for being "saccharine", "sunshine-and-flowers", and "one-dimensional".[1] University of Chicago professor W. J. T. Mitchell noted that

"Barney is on the receiving end of more hostility than just about any other popular cultural icon I can think of. Parents admit to a cordial dislike of the saccharine saurian, and no self-respecting second-grader will admit to liking Barney."[1]

These children were among the first to practice anti-Barney humor, and were given an entire chapter of the 1995 book Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Childhood.[2]

Eventually, adults began to contribute to the anti-Barney humor, including some parents and celebrities. Many families now refuse to watch the show because of its supposed "one-dimensionality" and "lack of educational value", and several YouTube videos have plush dolls of the character being destroyed in various ways, including being burnt, destroyed by small explosions, being shot by many weapons using tannerite or being ran over by vehicles.

Sources of hostility include episodes where Barney and the other characters do potentially harmful acts such as lying, cheating, stealing (with no punishment or scolding from the purple dinosaur), and catching stinging insects.[3] Other reasons cited for the hostility also include the purple dinosaur's voice (described by many parents as "dopey"), lack of varied facial expressions other than a toothy smile, and personality (described as being "self-centered"), as well as how the children in the series interact with the dinosaur characters.[4][5]

In Barney vs. The San Diego Chicken, Ted Giannoulas stated

[...] "Perhaps the most insightful criticism regarding Barney is that his shows do not assist children in learning to deal with negative feelings and emotions. As one commentator puts it, the real danger from Barney is denial: the refusal to recognize the existence of unpleasant realities. For along with his steady diet of giggles and unconditional love, Barney offers our children a one-dimensional world where everyone must be happy and everything must be resolved right away."[6]

Additionally, the show was ranked #50 on TV Guide's List of the 50 Worst TV Shows of All Time.[7]

Examples of Anti-Barney humor

Barkley vs. Barney

Charles Barkley was the guest host of Saturday Night Live on September 25, 1993, and performed a skit that parodied his Godzilla-themed Nike commercial by facing off against Barney in a one-on-one matchup.[8][9]

Baloney and Kids

The animated series Animaniacs had a satire episode where the Warner siblings confront "Baloney", an orange dinosaur meant to be a parody of Barney. The entire episode is dedicated to lampooning the series, as well as PBS for airing it (the introduction promotes the show as part of the "SBS (Stupid Broadcasting Service)" while the voice-over says, "Baloney and Kids is brought to you by this station and other stations that lack clever programming."). The Warners try various methods to get rid of Baloney (including dropping anvils on his head; after the second time Baloney says, "Let's do that again!"), but only escape when the show runs out of time, at which point they also take with them three extremely desperate adult members of the regular crew (including Hello Nurse).

Music and related video

One of the first well known anti-Barney songs was Tony Mason's[10] "Barney's on Fire" (often miscredited to "Weird Al" Yankovic, who denied writing the song).[11] Although Yankovic didn't write "Barney's on Fire", he did mention Barney in the lyrics of the parody song "Jurassic Park" ("...I'm afraid those things'll harm me / 'Cause they sure don't act like Barney..."). The music video for "Jurassic Park" also includes Barney's head being bitten off by a Tyrannosaurus, who later coughs up the head after receiving the Heimlich maneuver from a brontosaurus. Comedian Stephen Lynch has gained fame from his "Evil Barney Bus Driver" and "Evil Barney Babysitter" audio skits (among others), which he did for Opie and Anthony in 1997 and which have been commonly posted on the Internet.

An online video created by Ryan Steinhardt in 1998 combines clips from Barney and Friends with the 2Pac single "Hit 'Em Up", designed to give the viewer the impression that Barney and the other characters from the show are rapping. The humor is based on the juxtaposition of the actual song's heavy use of profanity and violent content, as opposed to the regular lessons and content on Barney and Friends.[12][13]

Shortly after the show's debut, various parody songs began circulating on elementary school playgrounds to the tune of Barney's closing theme, most of which involved the opening line "I hate you, you hate me" and involving various gruesome ways of killing Barney.

A YouTube video created by the channel Jesus Laughed Films was released in August of 2014, parodying Barney's famous song "Mr Knickerbocker". The new song pokes fun of the failures of the New York Knicks professional basketball team over the past decade and a half, and mimics most of the dance moves used in the song. While the song in general was poking fun at the Knicks team, the "radio announcers" at the beginning make a few Barney jokes.[14]

Print media

A small Italian comic book imprint, Parody Press (an imprint of Eternity Comics), released an anthology comic book entitled Kill Barny [sic] in 1994, a collection of short stories and one-page strips depicting the death of the purple dinosaur.[15] Several months later, another issue was released under the name Kill Barny Again!, reprinting most of Kill Barny but with some new material pages and a new cover.[16]

The Mad Magazine fold-in for issue #328 asked, "What Single Goal Has Brought Agreement And Unity Among Vastly Different Groups?" and the image, which featured pairs of opposite people proclaiming their support for the answer, folded into a dead Barney with the word "extinct" on it, and the caption then read "Death to Barney."

A 1994 FoxTrot comic strip features 10 year old Jason writing a letter to PBS telling them that Barney should be eating the kids after he saw "Jurassic Park" to which his friend Marcus says he would watch the show if that happened.[17]

The science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research published, in its 1995 January and February issue, a taxonomical article entitled The Taxonomy of Barney that included X-rays of the character's skeleton.[18]

Film

The 2002 film Death to Smoochy loosely parodies anti-Barney humor. The film features disgraced former children's star "Rainbow Randolph" (portrayed by Robin Williams) as he tries to sabotage the Barney-like character that replaced him, a purple rhinoceros named Smoochy, and later the efforts of the mafia to kill Smoochy. At one point, Smoochy's resemblance to Barney is acknowledged when Randolph refers to him as "Bastard son of Barney" in the film's final act.

In the 1998 film Mafia!, during an assassination montage, one of the kills has an Inuit break into the apartment of an actor in a Barney costume and then kill him with a spear. After that, the assassin proceeds to dance to "We are Family".

Internet fiction

Several works of short fiction have revolved around not only killing Barney, but portraying him as a demonic force to be defeated in an epic tale of good versus evil,[19] including a series of short stories written by Brian Bull, such as the Day of The Barney trilogy about two children who fight the purple dinosaur and free hordes of children from his demonic control,[19] and Batman versus Barney.[20]

Jihad

The Jihad to Destroy Barney is a fictional jihad that sees itself in the ultimate battle against Barney (spelled B'harne therein) and his followers. It is described as "a heterogeneous organization of people on the Internet dedicated to defamation, humiliation, eradication, killing, and removal of Barney the Purple Dinosaur of the television show Barney & Friends from the airwaves and from every human's life."[21][22] B'harne is depicted as a purple, scaly lizard-like demon with sharp talons, long teeth and glowing evil red eyes.

References to a Barney "Jihad" were found on Barney-related Usenet newsgroups as early as 1993.[citation needed][23] The website itself was active as of 1995.[24][25] Furthermore, Douglass Streusand, a professor of Islamic history at Marine Corps Staff College in Virginia, discovered that the first entry of an Internet search on the term "jihad" referred to Barney.[26]

"Barney = 666" joke

One of the most widely distributed works of anti-Barney humor appeared in the 2001 book Science Askew, which determined that a phrase describing Barney contained a chronogram of the Book of Revelation's Number of the Beast, 666.[27] Below is the formula of the equation:

  1. The character of Barney is well-described as a "cute purple dinosaur".
  2. The book points out how the former Latin alphabet used the letter V in place of U.
  3. Therefore the above phrase is modified to "cvte pvrple dinosavr".
  4. Letters that do not represent Roman numerals are removed, leaving: "c v v l d i v"
  5. When the remaining numbers 100, 5, 5, 50, 500, 1, and 5 are added, the result is 666, the Number of the Beast.[27] A summary of the Antichrist calculation was included in the Barney FAQ v1.2 (posted on Usenet's alt.tv.barney newsgroup in December 1993).[28]
  6. This also works with "lovable purple dinosaur". This gives the letters "l v l v l d i v", which in turn gives 50, 5, 50, 5, 50, 500, 1, and 5, which also add up to 666.

Computer games

  • A computer game was released for Macintosh entitled Barney Carnage.[29] One of the bosses in Monster Madness: Battle for Suburbia is a monstrous Barney parody named Mr. Huggles, who attacks by singing and attempting to hug unwilling pedestrians. After fighting him, his suit comes off, revealing a more vicious Jabba the Hutt-like being.
  • In the popular fighting game M.U.G.E.N, several fan-made characters of Barney exist, and are made to be deliberately weak so players can watch other characters, such as Godzilla, fight and defeat him effortlessly.[30]

Legal responses

Lyons Partnership, owners of the intellectual property rights to Barney & Friends, claimed that Barney spoofs represented trademark and copyright infringement. Lyons' lawyers subsequently demanded that such material be removed from the Internet. Some site owners complied after such threats,[31][32][33] but American law establishes parody as a fair use defense against such infringement claims.

Barney vs. The San Diego Chicken

In 1994, comedy sketches of The San Diego Chicken during professional sporting events began to include scenes of the Chicken beating up a dinosaur character. Lyons Partnership began sending letters to Ted Giannoulas, who portrays the Chicken, demanding that he stop the alleged violation of Lyons' rights on the Barney character.

These threats did not stop the mock battles between the Chicken and Barney. On 8 October 1997, Lyons filed lawsuit in Fort Worth, Texas federal district court against Giannoulas, claiming copyright and trademark infringement and further claiming that such performances would confuse children. In his case, Giannoulas cited that the purple dino was a "symbol of what is wrong with our society--an homage, if you will, to all the inane, banal platitudes that we readily accept and thrust unthinkingly upon our children", that his qualities are "insipid and corny", and that he also explains that, in an article posted in a 1997 issue of The New Yorker, he argues that at least some perceive Barney as a "pot-bellied," "sloppily fat" dinosaur who "giggle[s] compulsively in a tone of unequaled feeble-mindedness" and "jiggles his lumpish body like an overripe eggplant." This court agreed with Giannoulas, and ruled against Lyons on 29 July 1998, declaring the sketches to be a parody that did not infringe on the rights of the character that Lyons created.[34][35]

Lyons appealed this ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, but again lost their case to Giannoulas on July 7, 1999.[36]

Barney vs. EFF

The Electronic Frontier Foundation hosted online archives from the Computer Underground Digest that contained Barney parody material. In 2001, Gibney, Anthony & Flaherty, LLP, lawyers for Lyons Partnership, issued a threat letter to EFF claiming infringement of the Barney character. EFF strongly defended itself against these claims citing the established defence of parody, backed by United States First Amendment protections.[37]

As of 29 November 2006, the EFF successfully defended an anti-Barney website from a lawsuit. An article in British publication The Register applauded the victory.[38]

Barney vs. CyberCheeze

Around 2001, Olympia, Washington-based comedy website CyberCheeze[39] posted a work entitled "150 Ways to Kill the Purple Dinosaur." Lyons threatened legal action in response, and CyberCheeze replied on their site that the threat was "about as intellectual as the purple quivering mass of gyrating goo you call Barney, but that it also is demeaning to everyone that visits our website and reads this worthless attempt and scare tactic."[40][41]

References

  1. ^ a b Mitchell, W.J.T. (1998). "Chapter 37: Why Children Hate Dinosaurs". The Last Dinosaur Book: The Life and Times of a Cultural Icon. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-53204-6. 
  2. ^ Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Childhood, by Josepha Sherman and T.K.F. Weisskopf, ISBN 0-87483-444-9 (see The Green Man Review entry at the Wayback Machine (archived March 12, 2001))
  3. ^ [1] Bellinghausen, Alex. Barney: The Babysitter. Jihad.net non-fiction archives.
  4. ^ Larson, Grig. "Why We Hate Barney". Punkadyne Labs. Retrieved 2008-09-14. 
  5. ^ The Jihad to Destroy Barney (Wed, 13 Oct 1993 04:30:00 GMT). "The Official FAQ of the Jihad to Destroy Barney the Purple Dinosaur v3.03 (Jihad FAQ, Part 5)". alt.barney.dinosaur.die.die.die. Web link.
  6. ^ Lyons Partnership v. Ted Giannoulas, 179 F.3d 384, 386 (5th Cir. 1999), citing Chava Willig Levy, "The Bad News About Barney", Parents, Feb. 1994, at 191-92 (136-39).
  7. ^ CBS News: TV Guide's 50 Worst TV Shows
  8. ^ Pete McEntegart, "The 10 Spot", Sports Illustrated 10 July 2005
  9. ^ Video on YouTube
  10. ^ tonymason.com...For the record...WEIRD AL DID NOT WRITE OR PERFORM Barney's On Fire!!!! I, TONY MASON DID, BACK IN 1993...
  11. ^ Weird Al Yankovic at MySpace
  12. ^ Steinhardt, Ryan (1998). "Barney Shakur". MySpace. Retrieved 2008-08-10. 
  13. ^ "Site Map: A little entertainment". Daddy Designs. Archived from the original on 1 August 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-10. 
  14. ^ "New York Knickerbockers: Barney Parody". YouTube. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  15. ^ "Kill Barny! 1-A". Comic Collector Live. January 1994. Retrieved 2008-09-14. 
  16. ^ "Kill Barny Again, 1st edition." (in Italian). Retrieved 2008-09-14. [dead link]
  17. ^ http://www.amazon.com/Wildly-FoxTrot-A-Treasury/product-reviews/0836204166.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  18. ^ Theriot, Edward C. (January–February 1995). "The Taxonomy of Barney". Annals of Improbable Research. Retrieved 2007-06-09. 
  19. ^ a b "The Non-Jihad Story Collection". The Jihad to Destroy Barney. Retrieved 2008-08-10.  Includes works by Brian Bull.
  20. ^ Bull, Brian; "Batman vs. Barney" part 1
  21. ^ Hann, Michael (21 May 2003). "No, not the Barney song!". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 16 September 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-03. 
  22. ^ Jihad to Destroy Barney: FAQ v3.6x
  23. ^ "Joining the Jihad", alt.barney.dinosaur.die.die.die, 13 October 1993
  24. ^ Metzler Lavan, Rosemary (29 June 1995). "Business is Blooming on Internet". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2008-08-06. 
  25. ^ Casimir, Jon (1997). Postcards from the Net: An Australian's Guide to the Wired World. Allen & Unwin. p. 301. ISBN 1-86448-233-8. 
  26. ^ Raz, Guy (30 October 2006). "The War on the Word 'Jihad'". All Things Considered (National Public Radio). Retrieved 2008-09-14. 
  27. ^ a b Simanek, Donald E; Holden, John C. (2001). Science Askew. CRC Press. p. 115. ISBN 9780750307147. Retrieved 2008-08-03. 
  28. ^ Google search; as of 7 September 2007, this yielded 1380 results, most of which include the Barney/Antichrist Joke.
  29. ^ Barney Carnage
  30. ^ Video on YouTube
  31. ^ Removal of "Barney Dies" sound files, Carolyn Gargaro
  32. ^ "A children's toy could get me sued", drwho.virtadpt.net
  33. ^ Stirland, Sarah Lai (27 April 2002). "The Parody Police: Bash Barney online; soon you've got mail". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2008-08-03. 
  34. ^ Current.org: "The case of Barney v. Chicken", articles from 1997 and 1998
  35. ^ E! Online: Celeb Courthouse at the Wayback Machine (archived January 29, 1998) "Barney the Dinosaur v. the Famous San Diego Chicken".
  36. ^ FindLaw: 5th Circuit decision, Lyons Partnership vs Ted Giannoulas
  37. ^ EFF Response to "Barney" Legal Threat at the Wayback Machine (archived September 17, 2002), Electronic Frontier Foundation letter, 6 July 2001
  38. ^ (2006-11-29). "EFF defeats Barney the Dinosaur". The Register.
  39. ^ Original articles on cybercheeze.com at the Wayback Machine (archived February 15, 2001)
  40. ^ The Register: "Barney barney makes dino outfit purple with rage"
  41. ^ Wired News: "Lawyers: Keep Barney Pure", includes reference to the EFF situation.