(to the tune of the Barney Theme Song)
“I hate you
You hate me
Let’s get together and kill Barney
With a baseball bat and two-by-four
No more purple dinosaur!”
Background: The performer is a friend of mine in his early twenties. He spent his entire childhood in Long Beach, California and now lives in Tacoma, Washington. He went to public school in the Long Beach Unified School District from kindergarten through twelfth grade, and his elementary school (grades kindergarten through fifth) had around five hundred kids in it.
Context: The informant hadn’t sung the song since elementary school, but he was willing to perform it for me anyways. In a traditional context, the Barney spoof would be sung on the blacktop by children ranging from seven or eight years old all the way through elementary school (10 to 11). A remembers learning it from kids a few years older, hence the dark material. After singing it, A seemed a bit embarrassed and shocked at his parody and asked me why we all had such animosity for Barney in particular.
Thoughts: Though I did not attend the same elementary school as the informant, I can remember similar violent Barney songs. I wonder if the informant’s school had ever tried to ban them the way mine did for their violent and sometimes gory rhetoric. It’s strange how it seems so disturbing now; A and I both thought the songs were very funny as children. I suspect that Barney was a popular target because of his infantilizing dynamic and dopey voice, as opposed to other childhood PBS characters like. Elmo or Dora the Explorer. Anti-Barney humor is actually a well-recognized phenomenon, in both adult and children folk groups alike. For young children, the violent humor can be a way of navigating changing worldviews and increasing maturity—the graphic gore or death taunts are a schoolyard form of taboo humor, a way of rebelling against previously held-notions of childhood and asserting that they are more mature than parents, teachers, and popular children’s shows might regard them.