Are the Teletubbies utopian fiction?

Simon engages in an entertaining speculation, but taken very seriously: are the Teletubbies utopian science-fiction?

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. Where Wells saw his Eloi as adults, still capable despite their degeneracy of adult pastimes (so that Wells’s time traveller is for instance able to have sex with the Eloi Weena), the Teletubbies inhabit a more self-consistent vision of complete degeneracy.

Let’s put it this way: 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. Imagine them, in other words, regressing back wholly to a toddler’s existence, finding in that simplicity a maximum fit between existence and stress-free-satisfaction, like those German 40-something businessmen who like dressing in nappies and rolling around on the carpets of speciality brothels. Or, in fact, not like those men, because (unlike the Eloi) the Teletubbies have discarded the sex impulse as well, abandoning with it the dangerously fretful anxiety-gratification ratio of adult sexual life.

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. The Teletubbies are purer Eloi than the Eloi, a more complete rendering of the old SF convention about degeneration. Wells characterised his Eloi as child-like in some respect, but adult-like in others (physical appearance, sexual appetite). Huxley’s Brave New World also posited human global happiness upon an infantilisation of the human animal, although his future humans are also adult in appearance and physical appetite.

4 thoughts on “Are the Teletubbies utopian fiction?

  1. m2here July 31, 2015 at 20:04 Reply

    Many times now when I’ve investigated someone interesting I find they express this idea of reverting back to a sort of childhood mentality again and again. I must say I am pretty sold on it. What does society do but give us shame and unnecessary stress? There’s an episode of An Idiot Abroad where he goes to a small island where the natives still live tribally and what one man did all day was go to a big hill and slide down it on a piece of wood. He was called the happiest man in the world. Some Buddhism I find expresses this concept as well. Certainly I remember being a child, there was no concept of time, my needs and wants mattered more than anything. My happiness mattered to me above all else by default.
    Plus the concept that all children are born with the genius potential put forth by people like Buckminster Fuller.

    • Francois Tremblay July 31, 2015 at 20:11 Reply

      Well, there’s a lot of concepts that they try to enforce as “adulthood,” like responsibility, having children, work, and so on. There isn’t really any place for play in our societies, not even for children. We see play as being suspicious and “child stuff.”

      • m2here August 2, 2015 at 15:54 Reply

        And you can’t assert yourself in any loud or direct way, you have to be passive aggressive or otherwise manipulative. Being loud in general is discouraged. You can’t change your mind even as you discover new things, hence it’s “a woman’s prerogative”.
        And I’m really annoyed with the hubris that gets injected into, say the arts. Children draw all the time, all children draw, and because they don’t feel the need to justify this there is no ‘art can save the world!’ or “art is my life!” nonsense. But even science, I went into astrophysics because it’s fun. And despite the enthusiasm of nerd culture underneath it all is this smug ‘we’re doing important work for humanity’ attitude. Because heaven forbid we’re just having fun. I’m not saying it is or isn’t important, just that that’s not why we’re doing it really.
        And another thing, back in the day when most people were homoerotic in their younger years they usually ended a “close friendship” by saying we need to stop that “kid stuff”.

        • Francois Tremblay August 2, 2015 at 16:35 Reply

          It’s funny you say that because just yesterday I was watching a video by Richard Feynman, where he was talking about imagining physics stuff as a child and how it’s gotta be, you know, play, not serious, otherwise you lose that sense of discovery and imagination.

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