Children’s television programs cater to an audience that is still developing most of their cognitive skills. Hence, much of the content on many children’s television shows will only appeal to the age group that that program is targeted to. Subsequently, older children and parents who are forced to view the show alongside a smaller family member will likely find themselves exasperated or even irritated by such programs characters, storylines, and dialogue.
Although some shows—like “Sesame Street”—are creative enough to appeal to both adults and children alike (and therefore hold a dedicated fan base without much negative feedback), other shows intended for children are prime targets of abuse by older children, teenagers, and even adults who generally vent their dislike for the program via the Internet. Hence, a number of darkly funny videos, images, and blogs have been created with the purpose of demeaning a specific children’s television show and many of these morbidly funny creations have gone viral. Although all children’s television shows—including “Sesame Street”—have seen some spoofs and parodies directed at their content, no show in history has ever elicited the level of severe distain than “Barney & Friends.”
“Barney & Friends” was an American children’s television series that aired in 1992 and ran until 2009 (it still regularly appears in re-runs at present). Geared at children aged two to five, Barney & Friends (usually simply referred to as “Barney”) used songs, dancing, and storylines to promote positive messages with the goal of educating children about appropriate social behaviors and academic facts. “Barney” was actually a purple dinosaur (modeled after a Tyrannosaurus Rex) who was friendly, optimistic and silly.
“Barney & Friends” included a lot of age appropriate material and it was an instant success with millions of small children who truly did adore Barney. However, because the show was so totally centered on a very young age group, it often came across as contrived, repetitive, and even downright torturous to anyone above five years of age. In the early 1990s when Barney aired most families had only one television and so older siblings and parents frequently found themselves hostages to Barney as the younger children watched, enthralled, by its content. Perhaps this is why Barney instantly became so reviled by so many people—in fact, Barney was so hated that he even generated his own genre of comedy known as “Anti-Barney Humor.”
“Anti-Barney Humor” describes a brand of humor that aims to parody “Barney & Friends” in a negative way. Barney had been a target of hostility from the early 1990s, with several schoolyards developing parodies of the show’s theme song. These grade school parodies regularly included the lyrics “I hate you, you hate me, together we will kill Barney” followed by listing a number of gruesome ways to murder the character. Adults also took to lampooning Barney musically; a songwriter named Tony Mason even wrote a song called “Barney’s on Fire” that got air play on several radio stations in the U.S. Comic books and blogs have been dedicated to imagining the demise of Barney and the 2002 film “Death to Smoochy” was inspired by the sheer amount of anti-Barney humor witnessed by the writers.
The invention of social media in the 2000s brought anti-Barney humor to its climax. YouTube was especially proficient in the promotion of anti-Barney humor. There are several videos on the site that depict plush toys in Barney’s image being blown up, set on fire, or likewise completely destroyed. Similarly, in 1998, a man named Ryan Steinhardt created an online video that mixed an innocent clip of Barney with the violent and profanity laced rap song titled “Hit ‘Em Up.” The song lyrics and the images from the Barney episode were well synchronized and it truly gave the impression that Barney and the children around him were rapping threateningly. When YouTube launched in 2004, someone posted the “Barney Rap” video that went viral and became one of the most successful, hilarious, and well-known “Anti-Barney” pieces ever created.
Anti-Barney humor is an example of how people can comically cope with things that somehow rile or annoy them. Although a lot of anti-Barney humor centers on the idea of performing violent acts on Barney, it is generally all in good fun (mostly because Barney does not actually exist) and is intended to make fellow Barney suffers laugh. Hence, if you or your older children have grievance with a character, turning such annoyance into comedy is one way to handle the situation and possibly make other people laugh, too.