Barney Parody Song

“Joy to the world, Barney’s dead
We barbecued his head!”

Context: The informant is a junior at USC, originally from Illinois. She told me that children from her elementary school would sing this song to the same tune as “Joy to the World,” and while there’s more to the song, she doesn’t remember it. She hasn’t sung it in a very long time and does remember there being different versions of the song as well. The “Barney” referenced is Barney the purple dinosaur from the children’s show Barney & Friends.

Analysis: From my experience, a lot of elementary schools had parody songs related to violence against Barney, but this was the first I had heard of that wasn’t actually to the tune of the show’s theme song. Regardless, this, as per Jay Mechling’s chapter in Elliott Oring’s Folk Groups and Folklore Genres, reflects one of the antithetical categories of children’s folklore: parodies. Violence against Barney is a purposeful subversion of the show’s theme (a theme that starts with “I love you, you love me, we’re a happy family”) and, considering Barney was a cornerstone of many childhoods, almost seems to function as a rejection of that childishness. I think that as we grow up, it becomes “cool” to be more like the older kids; it becomes “cool” to associate with more taboo concepts like sex and violence. It becomes “uncool” to continue to believe in the blissfully unrealistic world Barney portrays, or to engage in displays of earnest emotion. Parodying violence against Barney seems to function as a way to divorce oneself from that childishness and start moving more towards adulthood. It reinforces social dynamics between age groups and shames those who still like things deemed as “childish,” defining social norms that persist far beyond childhood.