The iconic purple dinosaur Barney might be a core childhood memory for some, yet a new documentary has shown the hidden world of anti-Barney hate.
This new documentary, paired with some misleading headlines and viral conspiracy theories, had many people googling “what killed barney the dinosaur?”. But the truth is much darker than many of the theories online suggest.
Barney the purple Dinosaur is the star of the children’s TV show Barney and Friends. The show has been on air since the early 90s, making it a source of nostalgia for many people. However, Barney wasn’t so loved by many adults. On the 12th of October this year, a documentary called I Love You, You Hate Me premiered on the US streaming service Peacock. It focuses on allegedly exposing the seedy underbelly of the Barney set, detailing all the violence people’s hatred of Barney apparently prompted.
Anti-Barney hate is a very real and disturbing thing
After the rise of the so-called BarneyMania, the purple dinosaur became a bit of a hate figure in the US. Despite being an innocent show for preschool children, Barney was a target of parody and negative attacks. The reason for this hate? Often cited reasons are his voice (described by many as “dopey”), his unchanging “creepy” smile, and his “self-centred” personality.
I Love You, You Hate Me documents the extent of this hate. It details how Bob West, the original voice actor for Barney, received death threats. He describes how the death threats:
“were very explicit and very violent. Then they went on to say they were going to come and find me and they were going to kill me.”
The documentary also covers the wider cultural backlash against Barney. It goes over one significant figure who basically started the Barney hate train: Rob Curran. He created the “I Hate Barney Secret Society,” which sent out a newsletter in the early 1990s. This was the beginning of Barney haters forming a community solidified by their hatred of a children’s TV character. Barney hate became a well-known meme, with many videos of people destroying Barney toys in violent ways going viral.
But why did a documentary get people wondering what killed Barney?
After the release of this documentary, people started doing their own research into Barney’s dark past. This resulted in people stumbling across an article from The Independent which led them to believe that Barney was brutally murdered. The opening of the article states:
“In November 1997, Barney the Dinosaur was stabbed to death by the New York City Police Department.”
However, the article soon goes on to reveal that it was an air balloon of Barney that was stabbed and then deflated at the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade of 1997.
After discovering this headline, thousands of TikTok videos were made. However, in these videos, only the headline was shown, spreading this theory that Barney was actually ‘killed’.
As always, people took the information at face value and ran with it. This generated a whole theory around the purple dinosaur meeting his demise in a gruesome way. Whilst this isn’t true, the actual abuse that the producers and actors from Barney and Friends were subject to was very real. It really says a lot about the impact of people joining hate communities and the real-world effects it has. Seems a lot like Twitter’s cancel culture, just towards a character rather than a real person.