I Was a Teenage Troll, and Other Stories of Hate
What an anti-Britney Spears website and a song about Barney taught me about hate
The children’s television show Barney & Friends premiered on PBS in 1992, just after my fifth birthday. As an American child, I’d loved many TV shows before, but this was the first to really make an impression. At five and then six, I was gaining consciousness, making lasting memories, morphing from a preschool tot into a school-attending child, and this show, with its educational foundation and silly songs and dances, seemed built for purpose. What wasn’t to love about a reasonably sized purple dinosaur who lived to cuddle and play games with children just like me? I tuned in every chance I got.
I don’t remember the exact moment I first heard the song that would end my Jurassic love affair. I don’t know if it was during recess or lunch or in line to board the bus, but I do know it was at school. And what I do remember, to this very day, are the lyrics, sung to the tune of a nursery rhyme:
Tic tac toe / Three in a row / Barney got shot by a GI Joe / Mama called the doctor and the doctor said / Whoop! Barney’s dead / Whoop! Barney’s dead!
Now let’s take a moment to break this down, shall we? According to this song, not only was Barney murdered by a member of the United States Armed Forces, but his death was also celebrated by a licensed health care professional. To be fair, it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine a weary, overworked doctor silently celebrating the passing of a terrible, crotchety, racist patient. We could all muster up a little empathy for such a scenario. However, it’s another thing entirely for a physician to field a call from a deceased patient’s mother and utter not one, but two cheery Whoops! in regard to the patient’s death. That’s brutal. But that just goes to show how awful Barney was in my classmates’ eyes. Completely undeserving of basic dignity. A sack of fetid garbage stuffed into a fuzzy, smiling costume.
They say hate is a plague, but for me, it was a purple dinosaur. Let me be clear: Deep down, I still liked Barney. In fact, I loved him. Even after hearing this song, I wanted nothing more than for my parents to drive me to wherever the show was filmed and allow me to audition…