Finally! I get to vent my years of frustration regarding the creepy purple dinosaur known as ‘Barney’. I was just a touch too old to have fallen for Barney’s many wiles, but my two younger brothers who grew up in the 90s fell hard for the hugging, singing, laughing dinosaur who loves all the little children.
The videos and songs were played over and over in our house on VHS tapes, going round and round in my head, until I wanted to burn the tapes, and likely told my impressionable little brothers that Barney was ‘dumb’ and was ‘for babies’, or some other older-sibling attempts at manipulation to get the madness to stop. Out of all the shows my little brothers watched, that was the only one in which a thousand annoyingly upbeat songs fueled my hatred.
To be fair, Barney’s design was targeted at toddlers, so his behaviors are meant to appeal to that age range, not older kids or adults. Barney is far from the only creepy or annoying child’s character that was ever invented—I have it in for Brobee from ‘Yo Gabba Gabba!’ and Ming Ming Duckling from ‘The Wonderpets’ as well—but Barney is definitely up there on the list of creepiest kids’ characters of all time.
“What is it that makes him so creepy?” I thought you’d never ask! Until I examined my feelings for this prehistoric stuffed creature, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. But now I have put together a list of things that I believe cause his character to give us all a serious case of the willies.
15 The Singing
Everyone loves a good musical number, from the young to the old—music warms the heart, it can tell stories, it can inspire, and it brings people together. But, this purple people pleaser's version of singing was more like a vacuum sucking up nails, except even more grating. Barney's singling voice was annoying and every song was peppered with his goofy laughter. The songs were so sweet—it was like pouring too much sugar in your coffee. Every single song was upbeat and blissful as to give off an unrealistic representation of the world. I'm not saying we should be filling toddlers' shows with discussions of evil and warfare, but these songs bring optimism to a whole 'nother level. Optimism is great; too much optimism is weird. If you are the designer of a kids’ show, please take it easy on the extreme doses of happy-happy-joy-joy in every song. It’s creepy AF.
14 The Dancing
You know what? Kids are innocent—I get it. They can’t help it if they run around the living room, full of excitement when Barney and Friends start showing off their dance moves. Barney is the toddler’s dude—his BFF! Kids love him, they love that he dances their problems away, and life is so much more fun with a whole lot of flippin’ dancing. Especially synchronized dancing! So what if the rest of us think that dancing every minute of the day is weird? Maybe we’re the weird ones… but if you think that seeing children all lined up dancing in perfect sync is a little Pleasantville creepy, than you and I are of one mind. Maybe it’s because real children don’t act like that. They don’t hold hands swaying in perfect rhythm to chipper music, so maybe that’s why the dancing on this show is so garsh darn creepy.
13 Barney’s Pied Piper Tendencies
Does everyone remember the story of the Pied Piper? This was the dude who played a flute, and led all the children away in a single file line, never to be heard from again. Various accounts of the story exist, but the one we are all most familiar with is the one where all the children die, after being taken away from their homes by a strange man. Creeeepy, yes? Well, in many episodes of Barney & Friends, Barney is often seen leading the children, very Pied Piper like, around the room. I'm not the creator of a kid's show, so I will admit that I don't have the experience to advise on such a thing, but I'm just going to put it out there that children should never be depicted following a grown man around in a single-file line. I don't care if he is a talking dinosaur from the kids' imaginations.
12 Barney Tries Too Hard And Overacts
There is something very sinister about someone who is too eager to please. It suggests that the person is up to something, and they are doing their utmost to hide whatever it is they are up to. That's how I feel about Barney's overly friendly behavior and overacting. What are you hiding big purple costume, besides the human being sweating his butt off inside? Throughout the show, Barney's personality just isn't believable. He is too friendly, too loving, and laughs too much. When something surprises him, he is overly surprised. When something makes him laugh, he laughs just a little too hard. When he is pleased with one of the children, he offers too much praise. This behavior makes Barney seem fake—not at all realistic. I understand that sometimes behaviors have to be a little dramatized, because children can’t really pick up on subtleties, but it makes Barney come off as creepy and suspicious.
11 He’s WAY Too Happy
Have you ever met someone who is happy all the time? I mean genuinely happy all the flippin' time? Don't you find those people annoying? I realize that some people are simply happier than others. No matter what situation they encounter, they will react more often with positivity than pessimism, but Barney goes overboard with the happiness. It's like he's taken some kind of happy pill, and that can't ever be good. My mama always said that too much of anything is a bad thing, and Barney is way too happy. It makes me question his sanity. Aren't some crazy people remarkably gleeful? Well, perhaps Barney did escape the loony bin, because he's on happiness overload. He also feels like it is his duty in life to make all the little children happy too. They aren't allowed to feel anything except happiness in Barney's world. Don’t you dare shed a tear, or an immense purple dinosaur will race over to cheer you up.
10 He Just LOVES All Children
Just like too much happiness is a bad thing, too much love can be too. No one can love everyone, but that's just what Barney claims he is capable of. He loves all the children, even you and me. Not only is this a ridiculous notion, but also it diminishes the value of real love. Kids will be walking around telling every person they come into contact with that they love them. That makes the word 'love' rather meaningless. I'm not even sure it's appropriate for a stranger to be telling your children, albeit through the TV screen, that they 'love' them. Talk about creepy. Just because I understand why the producers of this show would want to make their dinosaur super lovable, doesn't mean that it doesn't come across as weird. This list is about what makes Barney an uber creepy character, not whether we understand the motivations behind his loving nature.
9 Way Too Much Creepy Hugging
One of the creepiest things about Barney, in my opinion, is all the hugging. I'm sorry, but it's really not appropriate for an adult to be hugging all the children all the time. Again, I get that he's supposed to be a huggable stuffed animal come to life, but that's where the hugging gets creepy. He's not really a stuffed animal when he 'comes to life'. On a side note, does anyone find kids' shows with costumed characters creepy, in and of themselves? Also, don't you find dolls or stuffed animals that come to life creepy? There is such a wealth of bad vibes in this beloved show. There are ways to show you care other than physical toughing. I may just be overanalyzing, but I don't think I'm alone in thinking all the hugging is odd, and a little uncomfortable to watch. I don't know, what do you think?
8 Barney’s Always Smiling
Smiling is usually considered a good thing. Someone who wears a smile is trustworthy, a fun person to be around, and everyone loves to be in good company. But in this case, is it just a bit too much? Barney has a smile on his face at all times. Literally. His dinosaur suit was designed in such away that his face can't actually form any expression other than a giddy grin. That makes things pretty darn awkward when he attempts to express anything unhappy, startling, or any other emotion one doesn't normally wear a smile while feeling. "Ow, I stubbed my giant dino toe!" Smiling. "Oh no! I lost one of the children I'm supposed to be playing with!" Grinning. "Oops! One of the kids is crying because he's having a bad day. I don't know why, but I find that hilarious!" Grinning like an idiot all day makes for one creepy dinosaur.
7 His Delusional And Unrealistic Message
One of the main criticisms of Barney & Friends is the unrealistic message Barney portrays—that the world is a place without problems. Each episode of the show depicts children having a hell-of-a-good-time, and they never experience anything even slightly negative. All the children get along, they all walk around with smiling faces, and they sing and dance at all times. The show doesn't attempt to teach children how to deal with bad feelings, or how to overcome obstacles, or even how to get along with people who might not be that easy to get along with. In Barney's world, all children love one another, and everyone else for that matter. They are greeted by kindness everywhere, even when other adults are introduced on the show. The teachers, postmen, police officers, etc. who they come into contact with, are just as smiley and giddy as Barney himself. Idealistic environments can come off as creepy.
6 Barney’s ‘Friends’ Don’t Act Their Age
Again, we realize there’s a reason the kids on the show act like toddlers. It’s because it is a show made for toddlers. Still, understanding the reasoning behind it doesn't make it any less painful to watch. The kids on Barney & Friends are much older than the target audience, so it's very strange to see them behaving in ways that aren't age-appropriate. They also play games that are much younger than their age range. Toddlers love it, but when an older child or adult watches it, the creepiness isn't lost on them. Perhaps that is why so many older children found Barney so darn strange, and so annoying. Probably because older kids knew that it was unrealistic and they just weren't able to suspend their disbelief enough to get any enjoyment out of the show. Yes, many young children loved Barney, but I'd have to speculate that just as many hated him. Or maybe I'm just projecting?
5 The Creepy Voice
I only just learned that the voice actor, Bob West, was the first to voice the joy-filled purple dinosaur. Apparently he auditioned for the role in the late 80s, and voiced the dino until the year 2000. He was not the man in the suit, however. That was another gentleman by the name of David Joyner. Originally, they were hoping to put the two roles into one man, but when they hired Bob West, they determined he was too tall to wear the suit they'd already started making. He lucked out on that front, but the rest of us got the short end of the stick—we had to endure his voicing of one of the most annoying dinos in the world. Of course it's not Mr. West's fault. He was only supplying the voice that the producers wanted, but did he have to make the voice quite so irritating and disturbing?
4 Even Barney’s Costume Is Creepy
We've already mentioned how creepy Barney's permanently smiling face is, but the entire costume is terrifying when you think about it, which of course I have. The dino's unrealistic representation was actually designed to make Barney seem more friendly and appealing, but because it seems so unnatural, it actually does the opposite for a lot of people. He has only two large curved teeth, rather than hundreds of sharp pointy ones. His hands are virtually clawless, although he does have a couple of claws on his toes. The sheer size of his head and feet has been known to frighten many of us, and his tiny hugging arms aren't doing him any favors. He also has droopy eyes that make him appear half asleep. Let’s just face it—Barney is creepy from the tip of his huge head, to the bottom of his disproportionate feet. Costumed people always give me the heebie-jeebies anyway, but Barney is worse than most.
3 Barney Is Always Watching
I mentioned earlier, as if you don't already know, that Barney is a stuffed animal that comes to life. That is super creepy all by itself, and I think if toddlers could fully fathom that strangeness, they might not have liked the dinosaur quite so much. My kids don't care much for dolls or toys coming to life, because it's kind of scary when you really consider it. That means that they are keeping their beady little eyes on you all hours of the day and night. Barney lived in a school, and watched over the kiddos as they went about their days. He appeared when they 'needed' him. How did he know they needed him? Because he was always watching. Sometimes he would magically pop up when the kids were playing, as though they couldn't get along without him. Stuffed animals, toys, and dolls that come to life because of magic, gives me a bit of a Chuckie feeling, how 'bout you?
2 The Creepy Laugh
Laughter is supposed to be the world’s best medicine, a positive sound—a sound that brings about thoughts of happiness and enjoyment. Laughter is usually a sound of well-being and contentment, right? But laughter doesn't always bring about good thoughts—at least not in the case of purple carnivores chuckling madly. We've all heard of the evil laugh, or the witch’s cackle, but what about the dinosaur's unnerving giggle? Some laughs just don't bring about thoughts of happiness for every person; sometimes they bring about anxiety and discomfort. That's how I felt as a child whenever I heard Barney laugh. He's up to something with that laugh. Why does he laugh so much anyhow? Is it the laughter of the insane? No one should laugh as much as Barney does. It's a sound that makes me (and many others), want to put a foot through the TV screen. If I never hear Barney's laughter again, it'll be too soon.
1 Too Much Choreography
One thing Barney is known for is the choreographed dance numbers that both dinosaurs and kids take part in. All the dancing is strange enough when it's supposedly taking place in a day-to-day environment, but it gets even weirder when even the kids games are choreographed. The kids can't even play a game of catch without the ball bouncing in time to the music. It reminds me of that book 'A Wrinkle In Time' when the main character Meg Murry encounters a planet where all the children's games are synchronized. Any child who missteps—whose ball doesn't bounce at the exact same moment as the other kids' balls—is considered a misfit. Kids just don't act that way. Mistakes are part of growing up, but in Barney's world there are no mistakes. Everyone dances to the same beat of the very same drum, creating a setting that is too perfect, and is thereby creepy.
Sources: Barney Wiki