Familiar aliens: Teletubbies and postmodern childhood

J. Bignell
2005 Screen  
This article argues that the British pre-school children's television programme Teletubbies develops some of the theoretical concerns of postmodernist criticism. The aim of the article is to consider how this theoretical discourse and Teletubbies work together to rethink the notion of the child, as a conceptual category and an audience category imagined for British television. I shall argue that the aesthetic of Teletubbies corresponds to the reflexive textuality identified by postmodernist
more » ... ry, and instantiates some of the confusions between self and other, adult and child, that this theoretical discourse has debated. 1 Some of the existing work on Teletubbies discusses it in terms of its effects on the child audience and its relationship to educational and social goals, using arguments that adduce what is claimed to be knowledge about actual children. 2 In contrast, this article discusses arguments that derive from abstract conceptions of childhood as a condition or life-stage. However, I demonstrate here that these two approaches keep merging into each other, and that this issue is part of the greater problem of boundaries, propriety and ambivalence that postmodernist thinking has addressed and of which it is a symptom. The French theorist Jean-François Lyotard is interested in childhood as a discursive category, rather than in actual children as concrete individual subjects. He discusses childhood in relation to notions of process, such as the process of constitution of the subject, and the relation between a subject and an object, event, or experience. Discussing childhood opens up the issue of teleology, for the concept of the child is understood as that being who will become an adult, and the concept of adulthood is produced against the retrospective invocation of the concept of the child. Similarly, for Lyotard, a text is 'modern
doi:10.1093/screen/46.3.373 fatcat:ynj3kltn4vevbandb6nh5vmcwy