Of Teletubbies and Mutants on Saturday Mornings (Man Behind Red Shades 1)
TELETUBBIES & MUTANTS on Saturday Mornings
Cyclops -- on true love, prejudice and big multicolored British
imports. '80 proof dry irony warning.
/ pairing / warning / notes all in one: Frankly, I'm not sure
what you'd call this, aside from 'an extended internal monologue from Scott
in rare high form.' Do beware of 4-letter words. The basic
idea has been floating around my head for a while but without a clear entry
point until now. If it bothers you to think that Scott might be bisexual,
don't read this. If you like Jerry Falwell, you
read this. But that said, it's not slash, in that there's no m/m relationship
except hypothetically. The relationship is S/J; this is a different take
on them than in Heyoka. Once again, I have used certain details
that appear (or will appear) in other stories. "Minisinoo canon" if you
will. That's because it's easier to create one backstory for Scott and
use if consistently, unless something specific to a story requires me to
change it. Teletubbies belong to Ragdoll Entertainment & PBS.
Story #1 in "The
Man Behind Red Shades"
We're all sprawled like puppies in
a heap on the carpet in front of the big TV in the den. Myself and Jean,
and about twenty teenagers in pyjamas using us as convenient body furniture.
Saturday morning TV, but not the usual cartoons. The channel is fixed firmly
on PBS by long-standing tradition and group consent. It is eight o'clock,
and a baby-in-a-sun rises in the fictional east to giggle over a make-believe
English dell complete with bright fake flowers and real bunnies; the music
starts, and out spring the four multicolored stars of the show.
This is what it means to teach at
Mutant High. I watch The Teletubbies on Saturday mornings with a
bunch of kids who can walk through walls, curdle milk with a touch (not
a look), or set fire to their poptarts without the aid of a toaster. That
they also read Seventeen, whine about their homework, listen to
the Backstreet Boys and N'SYNC, and consider everything a crisis which
must be solved right now - like any other group of adolescents
- is easy to overlook with all the mutant bells and whistles, but
essential not to forget. And I wouldn't trade them for the world. Jean
says it's what makes me a good teacher: I love my job. I'd probably still
be a teacher even if I got paid a public school salary. I happen to be
one of those weird people who likes teenagers.
In any case, I'm not quite sure why
Teletubbies has stuck as de rigeur Saturday morning viewing
at the mansion. It's among the stupider shows I've seen, baring a couple
sitcoms and a couple triple-X flicks, but the latter is a tale for another
time and constitutes a completely different level of stupid. I doubt the
kids would believe I'd even been inside that kind of theater, anyway. They
have a warped notion of who I am, but it's one I fostered, so I can hardly
fault them. I'd needed it, at twenty-two when I first started teaching
- anything to bolster my authority. Now I seem to be saddled with
it. Mr. Summers Stick-in-the-Mud. Though in all fairness, I think the older
kids have started to get a clue. Reciting half the script of Rocky Horror
Picture Show and teaching them the Time Warp at the Halloween Dance
was probably a dead give-away that I didn't spring fully grown from the
professor's head armed with my visor and an algebra textbook.
In any case, The Teletubbies
is supposed to be mind numbing if you're twenty-five. If you're
three, it's great. If you're fifteen and sixteen and seventeen, I'm not
sure what to think.
But the truth is, I -
Mr. Summers Stick-in-the-Mud - am the one who started this. And while
I may not know why it caught on with everybody else, I certainly remember
Jerry Falwell. A big purple teletubbie.
And an outlandish right-wing witch hunt to 'out' a character in a preschooler's
And that should tell you just how
long The Teletubbies has been a tradition here. Bobby and John were
a pair of skinny shrimps instead of young men almost as tall as I am, and
we'd just claimed Jubilee from a life of petty crime and bad hair days.
Jean and I weren't even together yet, just circling each other in a fit
of on-the-edge-of-a-relationship angst. That was when Falwell began his
idiotic campaign against Tinky Winky. We're mutants here, and interested
in witch hunts by definition, even if we weren't the target that time.
At least most of us weren't. Some of us are social outcasts in more ways
than one. In any case, and up till that point, I don't think anyone here
had ever heard of teletubbies since no one is under five (though a few
of them could fool you). Falwell needs a crash course in childhood psychology.
If you really want to keep kids from doing something, starting a flap about
it isn't the way to succeed. Years ago, I'd snuck in to see
Temptation of Christ, though way too young, precisely because it was
getting picket lines of protestors. At the time, I hadn't understood much
about the film and would never have been interested at all if not for the
stink. As an adult, I've come to like it. It offered us Harvey Keitel as
Judas and no easy answers. I prefer the world in shades of red and grey
instead of black and white. But I haven't changed, when it comes to controversy.
As soon as Falwell started howling about Tinky Winky being "a gay role
model" and the show being "a homosexual plot to corrupt children," I simply
had to drag myself out of bed the next Saturday (the only day I wasn't
teaching while the show was on) to see what had the jackass eating swords
God knows I hate Falwell with a rare
passion, and his allegations were absurd to the point of offense. But I
must also admit, whoever created this show had great fun. Let me explain.
There are four teletubbies, of various colors, sizes and ages - red
Po, yellow Laa Laa, green Dipsy, and the infamous Tinky Winky. They have
vaguely animalish features, big ears, and televisions in their tummies
(hence 'tele-tubbie'). Truly a mythos for the information age, or the mutant
age, I'm not sure which. But we have yet to find a kid with a television
mutation. Cell phones and game boys, yes; TVs no. As for Kitty and computers,
I keep telling her that a big, bad monitor is going to eat her for lunch
if she doesn't get out from behind it occasionally. She just humphs and
tells me I'm not funny. While she swallows a grin.
to The Teletubbies. Besides the tummy-TVs, each of them has an antenna
on the head in various shapes: straight, curled, a circle, etc. They all
have "favorite things," too (just like the preschoolers they're meant to
mimic), and favorite activities. And a pet Hoover called Noo-noo who cleans
up after them. I want a Noo-noo for Christmas.
Tinky Winky is purple. His antenna
is a triangle. His favorite thing is a bright red purse called a 'bag'
on the show. Bag, my ass; it's a woman's purse circa 1955. And among his
favorite activities are singing and ballet dancing in a 'skirt' that by
any other name would sound suspiciously like 'pink tutu.' A walking gay
cliche who (if we count the skirt) might qualify as the first toddler drag
queen in history.
Some fruit at the BBC was having
the time of his life when he made that character. Well, maybe not, but
I'm too much the cynic to think it all accidental. The first time I saw
the show, I about fell off the couch laughing. Jean had to physically restrain
me, which didn't work very well because she was laughing as hard as I was.
She told me later that my reaction was what made it the Saturday
Tradition. They all had to see the show that had cracked up Mr. Summers.
Of course, they have no real idea
why I find Tinky Winky so hysterical, although it's become the inside joke.
Two years ago, for Christmas, the kids bought me a Tinky Winky stuffed
doll with red shades glued on. It sits on my desk now. But it wasn't meant
to be humor at the expense of gays. One thing on which they're all crystal
clear is that I do not tolerate defaming jokes about any group of
people. Period. It's not funny. But then, none of us around here is particularly
inclined to find it funny when people are humiliated. We know what that
feels like, and I told them that it's weak - the coward's way -
to build yourself up by cutting down others. Don't laugh because someone
else is different - and that includes kids who may seem less than
cool. Cool changes in the blink of an eye, sometimes literally. I blinked,
and went from Mr. All-Star Volleyball to Red-Eyed Mutant Death Wonder.
But laughing at yourself is
a different matter, and that's why Tinky Winky amuses the hell out of me.
Xavier knows. Jean knows. Ororo and
Hank don't; they're as oblivious as the kids (bar one). It's never even
entered their heads to wonder, not because they're dumb but because I'm
dating Jean. Logan knows, too - but not because I told him.
See, it wasn't just Logan's reaction
to Jean that made me hate him initially. It was my reaction to Logan. It's
annoying as hell when you have to deal with a guy who ticks you off as
much as he turns you on. He realized it, too, if a bit belatedly. I could
see it in his eyes by the time he left, that he'd surmised the true nature
of what was going on. But I'm not sure he knows that I know. He
gets a kick out of pushing my buttons because he thinks I'm in denial about
the nature of what I feel, and I let him because it amuses me in some twisted
way, like a complicated hustle. Some day an opportunity will present itself
for me to enlighten him, and then I'll have my revenge.
I'm not in denial. That's a river
in Egypt. But I am bisexual. I've known it since high school and it quit
bothering me a long time ago - or I sure as hell wouldn't have a Tinky
Winky sitting on my desk. But that also doesn't mean I intend to run around
on Jean with men. Contrary to popular assumption, being bisexual doesn't
require you to have sex with both genders to feel complete. It just means
you have twice as many chances for a date on Saturday night. I once hit
Jean's car (by accident) and she stole my heart (on purpose). I haven't
seen it since. If I was kidding myself about my feelings, the professor
would have called me on it long ago. He has his doubts about my relationship
with Jean, I know, but my orientation has nothing to do with it. He'd be
the last one to let me hide in a closet.
Only one student knows the truth
about me (and that's a special case). Even at "Mutant High," I must be
careful. While many of these kids are run-aways, not all are. Some have
parents who sent them here, parents who get involved and want to know who
the teachers are and what the curriculum entails, etcetera the same
as at any other private school. This thrills me. Every time a parent drives
up to drop off a child, pick one up, or just visit, a part of me sings.
Shall Overcome," dammit. Fifty years ago my college roommate EJ wouldn't
have been able to sit by me on a bus. Five years ago, at Berkeley, I went
out with his sister a time or two, to no more reaction than a second glance
- and that probably because Clarice is hot as hell and I wear shades
indoors, not because I was white and she was black. To quote MLK, "The
arc of history bends slowly, but it bends towards justice." Unfortunately,
too many people are able to deal with only one prejudice at a time. Mutant
bisexual might be a bit much, even for the open-minded, and all we need
is someone to start making allegations that the math teacher is a fag,
however inaccurate. There are parents who'd take their kids out of here
faster than a rabbit can court (and rabbits don't court; they fuck -
which is what they'd be afraid I might do to their boys).
But I'm not interested in these kids
that way, either girls or boys. Take Bobby Drake. He's so beautiful, he
stops my breath. But he's like my kid brother. We're not at the same place
in life, and if we were, there'd be something seriously wrong with me,
emotionally speaking. Drake is nice to look at, but that's as far as it
goes. It's no different than with the girls. Kitty flirts with me shamelessly
because she knows I'm safe. It's my role to maintain the lines, be someone
she can 'practice' on. I flatter her and make her feel good about herself.
I did the same thing for Warren once, and when he was ready, I was the
one he came out to. His trust touched me more than anything a kid has ever
confided. I helped him accept who he was - just as Charles did once
for me. Warren is the only student who knows I'm bi, and part of the strength
of our current friendship rests on the fact that I didn't come on to him.
I didn't abuse his trust. Now, he'd trust me with his life, and probably
will when he joins the team this summer. I'll do my level best to take
care of him physically, like I did once emotionally. That's my job. It's
what I do, as teacher or as field leader. I protect them.
It's odd that I don't see it the
same way with Jean, and not just because I'm the younger partner. Drake
just turned seventeen, Warren eighteen. Jean is thirty-three - as
many years my senior as I am to the boys. But what a critical eight years
between Drake and me. And Jean's always telling me I'm twenty-five going
on forty-five, anyway. Even so, I'm aware there's a gap between us. Fortunately,
age gaps narrow the older you get. It bothered us a lot more when we first
started going out, but I'd be lying if I said I never thought about it.
Mostly, though, I think about it in the positive: what the hell kind
of good karma did I amass in a previous life to win a woman like Jean in
this one? I am one lucky man.
But while I may not feel anything
beyond an occasional pang for Bobby Drake, more abstract than real, when
it comes to Logan, things change. Consider right now. Carrying a cup of
coffee, he just wandered into the den to find us all sprawled on the floor,
watching teletubbies do a bizarre-o dance that seems to consist mostly
of walking around in circles, falling down, and giggling. Jubilee and Kitty
are copying it, like a pair of toddlers in full mimicry.
Logan blinks at the TV, at Kitty
and Jubes, at the rest of us, and back to the TV. His expression is caught
between disbelief and wry humor. "What the hell?" he mutters. It's not
said aloud, but I can read that much on lips. And I confess I have a tendency
to watch his mouth for shamelessly unplatonic reasons. His face is beautiful
and interesting and gives lie to the studied apathy he attempts to project.
He doesn't even try very hard any more. This is a place of acceptance;
we feed stray cats, mutant foundlings, and prickly wolverines.
"You want to join us?" Jean asks
He finally spots the two of us there
in a tangle of kids. Shock and amusement. I have Sam Guthrie using my shin
as a pillow (the boy is starved for male touch but afraid of most men for
reasons that make me willing to entertain thoughts of castration as fair
punishment for sex offenders). In my left arm is curled a carefully-covered
Rogue (because I'm not scared to hold her), and Jean occupies my right.
He raises an eyebrow, shakes his head with a slight smile, and leaves again.
On the way out, he says - aloud this time - "No wonder people
think mutants are fucking weirdos." I'd tell him to mind his language around
the kids except most of them swear better than he does. Besides, I'm too
busy watching his ass in thread-bare Levi's. I notice, before he disappears
around the door, that a hole has been worn in blue cloth high on the inner
left thigh. It's a good thing loose flannel pajama bottoms conceal a multitude
Behind my glasses, my eyes are concealed,
too. No one else knows what I was staring at, except Jean. She's watching
me size-up Logan, and I can feel her amusement. She doesn't have to be
a telepath to read me.
You see, it's true that bisexuality
doesn't mean one feels incomplete unless one is swinging both ways at once,
but it's equally true that love and lust are not the same thing, and Jean
and I have been together a while. My crush on her has faded like an over-washed
shirt, even while our love continues as bright as fresh tie-dye. Time feeds
it, and respect, and understanding. I still desire her, and she me, but
it's a desire we nourish with deliberation. Deliberation doesn't make the
body rush any cooler under the covers when we take our clothes off. We
just don't do it as often, or as spontaneously. And that's okay. For all
things there is a season. I don't mourn what's passed because I consider
what we have to be better. I've always been a man for security, at least
in matters of the heart. My fatal attraction to 'fast, shiny and dangerous'
applies only to vehicles, not women (or men). Of course I have crushes.
Everyone does. Jean still rags me about renting every Meg Ryan movie that
comes out just so I can see that woman smile. I confess, it's true. But
it's totally irrelevant to Jean, or love. I'm not sure I'd even like Meg
Ryan if I ever had a chance to talk to her; she seems a bit flighty. But
hormones don't always - or even often - listen to common sense.
As witness my completely irrational,
illogical crush on, of all people, Logan.
Now what was I saying about fast,
shiny and dangerous? Well, Logan is dangerous, and he might be fast, but
he's definitely not shiny. Not in the usual sense of the word.
While one part of me finds the whole
situation annoying, another part has learned to be amused by it. So I'm
a bit warped. But in this case, Jean is as warped as I am. She's far less
jealous, too, than I was at first in her shoes. My jealousy arose from
the insecurity of our age difference. Like I said, I'm still trying to
figure out what I did in a former life to deserve her. Certainly I don't
feel like I've done enough in this one, though she tells me otherwise.
But I'm not jealous any more, and she's never been because she knows I'm
not going anywhere; that's one advantage of dating a telepath. It's normal
to feel attraction to others, even if one chooses not to act on it. Do
I want to fuck Logan? God, yes. Will I? Absolutely not - even if he
(improbably) asked, nor would Jean. And he's more likely to ask her.
That is what - ultimately -
cracks me up about the whole thing. I have a crush on the same guy my fiancee
does. Situational irony at it's finest. Logan has figured out that I want
him. It must be the heightened senses, or maybe it's just that he keeps
catching me watching him. But thank god he doesn't know the rest of it.
His ego is, if possible, even bigger than mine, and it might not survive
the discovery that our little love triangle has become a private joke between
Jean and me. The attraction has driven us closer; it's yet one more thing
Of course it wasn't always so. It
took a while for her to adjust to the idea that I was as likely to check
out men at the mall as women. She may be a telepath but she's still human,
and a little sheltered, and about as close to a hetero 0 on the Kinsey
scale as you can get, while I'm one of the rare few who sits dead in the
middle. It's a bit strange when the first gay or bisexual person you've
ever talked to at length is your own lover. She got used to it. These days,
we can sit around in the mall food court and compare notes, though her
assessment of the women is more an exercise in the hypothetical.
it boils down to is very simple. Of all the people I've known, the one
I fell head over heels for wears a bra, and black spike heels when I can
get her to. That this coincidence is also the more socially acceptable
option really has nothing to do with it - which is what she had to
come to terms with. I'm not with her because she's a woman and I'm hiding.
I'm with her because she's Jean Grey, and I love her to distraction. If
she'd been born with different plumbing, I suppose I'd have fallen in love
with John Grey. Now we can check out the men in the mall together, and
we can laugh about Logan, because she knows I'm not going anywhere -
and I know she's not. That's what love is about.
Penny for your thoughts. Jean's
voice, in my head, but she's not been snooping. She just knows me well
enough to read my face, or what of it she can see.
I turn my head a little to whisper
soft against her ear. "Later, hon. Then you can snoop all you want."
Is that a promise or threat?
I smile. "Which do you want it to
Well, I got the promise a long
time ago. The threat might be more interesting. What fantasies are you
harboring this week? Tying me up with little black handkerchiefs so you
can decorate me with whipped cream and sprinkles?
The television is squawking, "Time
for Tubbie bye-bye, time for Tubbie bye-bye!" It covers my laugh. I'm watching
her mouth and thinking about whipped cream. I've forgotten all about Logan.
Almost. "Watch it, I like sprinkles. Maybe I'll sing Wake up, Sleepy
Jean to you at three in the morning."
Do and die.
"But I thought you liked my voice?"
I like my sleep better. At three
"I could make it worth your while.
Whipped cream and sprinkles, you know."
You're terrible, Scott.
"You suggested it; I'm just running
with it - "
"Mr. Summers! You forgot!" interrupt
at least four annoyed voices. It makes me start, afraid for a moment that
we've been overheard. But they're pointing at the TV, which is going through
the Tubbie Bye-Bye. And I missed my cue.
Ooops. Each week, the kids repeat
at a shout the Tubbie signoff right along with the script. All four teletubbies
say goodbye individually, and there's an appointed viewer to echo each
one. Guess who is Tinky Winky. Now, Jubilee wacks me over the head with
a couch pillow in punishment. "He was making gah-gah eyes at Dr. Grey.
You guys are, like, so gooey. Get a room already!"
"We have one. And if you hit
me again, you're fishfood!"
"You gotta catch me first!"
So I chase her behind the pool table
and tickle her until she screams Uncle.
Did I really say earlier that I like
teenagers? Can I plead temporary insanity due to caffeine withdrawal?
FEEBBACK is doted upon ... and always answered.
For more in the "Red Shades" series:
Behind Red Shades
For more X-Men movie fanfic by Minisinoo
The Medicine Wheel