There isn’t a human being who came of age in the ’90s who doesn’t immediately recognize the giant purple dinosaur in that photo. And while many of us have, at best, fond memories of “Barney & Friends,” or, at worst, mildly annoying memories, a new Peacock documentary about the show looks downright…disturbing.
The show featured lots of singing, dancing, and discussions about love and friendship. It even helped make the careers of Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato, both of whom starred on the show as children. And most millennial parents out there know that when it comes to grating songs that never leave your psyche, “I love you, you love me” was the OG “Baby Shark.”
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But a new documentary, “Barney,” shows the extent of the darkness show creators experienced as a result of the show’s popularity. The trailer for the two-part series features Bob West, who voiced and acted as Barney, as he discusses the frequent death threats he received on the job.
“They were violent and explicit, death and dismemberment of my family,” he says. “They were gonna come and find me, and they were going to kill me.”
Show creators, Sheryl Leach, Kathy Parker and Dennis DeShazer initially intended Barney to become a symbol of inclusion and acceptance—unfortunately, the show’s immediate and immense popularity gave way to the exact opposite of those things from viewers around the world.
“‘I Love You, You Hate Me’ unpacks how a children’s character who stood for inclusion, understanding, and kindness birthed a movement of anger and criticism that threatened the show, its creators, and their futures,” executive producer Joel Chiodi, head of documentaries and SVP of strategic development at Scout Productions, said in a statement. “As it spotlights the beginnings of modern-day hate culture, this documentary traces the creation of the character and how it took a toll on the people closest to it, examining the surprising and lingering impact the ‘Big Purple Dinosaur’ left on American society.”
Personally, I remember getting sucked into the show, albeit reluctantly, as my younger sister was a huge fan. And I also remember kids often cheekily changing the lyrics to the show’s signature song to “I hate you, you hate me,” yadda, yadda, yadda. But I certainly wasn’t aware that show creators and performers had to endure such intense levels of vitriol and threatened violence simply for producing a popular children’s show.
Now I’m anxiously awaiting a bone-chilling Lamb Chops documentary, or a troubling tell-all about the behind-the-scenes antics of The Big Comfy Couch.
The Barney documentary, “I Love You, You Hate Me,” is set to premiere Oct. 12 on Peacock.