Politics and Predjudice in "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"

We are, of course, speaking of the definitive Rankin/Bass stop-motion animated version.

Please don't tell TLO I did this.

So I was watching this classic Christmas special on TV the other day, and what struck me was how much of a jerk Santa is in this story.

"Great bouncing icebergs!"

That's what Santa says the first time he sees Rudolph's rather extraordinary nose. Then he says Rudolph's nose had better not glow if he's going to be a sleigh-pulling reindeer.

What? Oh, but it's okay, because then he sings a song, which does nothing to explain why glowing noses would be a problem in flying or sleigh-pulling.

Meanwhile, in a bustling warehouse on the other side of town, Hermey the elf is holding up the production line as he dreams of dentistry.

Hermey's boss is a genuine hard case, but he has a legitimate beef: Hermey is a terrible toy-maker. Even Hermey knows it, and as he sings, "you can't fire me, I quit!" because he doesn't fit in.

I support both the hard-nosed elf boss, and Hermey's decision to quit: Hermey wasn't doing anyone any favours by hanging around in a job he hated and did badly.

Okay, so time passes, through the magic of Burl Ives-powered narration, and Rudolph is at the reindeer tryouts or something. But we interrupt that actually interesting plot point to bring you Santa being a jerk:

I can't figure out why he's hating the elf choir here, but he is. They're singing fine, and he can only cringe.

Finally, we get back to Rudolph at the tryouts.

And you know what? He's great! He can fly like nobody's business. He's a regular Wayne Rooney of magical reindeer flight.

And then the excrement hits the air recirculation device.

At this point, for the shameful act of having a red nose, Rudolph's coach, best friend, all the other reindeer, and Santa all turn on him.

You know the drill: no reindeer games, whatever those are. Reindeer MMA? Reindeer skeet shooting?

And then there's a bunch of plot we don't care about, because it doesn't touch on the thesis of this ridiculous rant. Rudolph's girlfriend sings, and doesn't sound like Marni Nixon, surprisingly.

Finally, our pair of misfits meet, sing, and become friends.

Of course they do. They're both exiles, but Hermey really isn't working out. He needs to spend some time working on his career options. But who would exile the incredibly talented Rudolph? A predjudiced idiot, that's who.

I'm going to dodge another big meaty chunk of point, as we meet homeless toys, an abominable snow monster, and King Moonracer.

This photo of King Moonracer is included only because noble flying lions are cool. What can I say? I'm a cryptozoological monarchist.

I won't spoil the funny but essentially reasonable plot which ends up with our heros acting heroic, and teaches us the awesome power of dentistry.

Returning to Predjudice Village, Santa reads the weather reports, and says Christmas is cancelled.

Like I'd want a present from that hater.

But just then, Rudolph & Co. show up from the wilderness, and now it's all "that beautiful, wonderful nose!"

Super. So Santa is anti-mutant, right up until the very moment he needs a mutant, and then the scales fall from his eyes, and Rudolph is asked to guide the sleigh, and it's happy endings all around. Even the misfit toys get loved in the end.

But what's with Santa Claus being a hateful bigot throughout the show? At least the elf boss has an excuse: Hermey is a worse-than-useless toymaker, and all the elves do is make toys. His understanding of his needs is a little narrow, inasmuch as he can't understand the need for a resident dentist until later, and as for the reindeer, well, I'm willing to cut ungulates a fair bit of slack.

But what's Santa's excuse? He apparently hates Rudolph for purely aesthetic reasons, and he completely reverses himself the moment Rudolph becomes necessary to him. Why wasn't Rudolph using that opportunity to tell Santa Claus and the coach and all his inconstant friends in reindeerdom to go stuff themselves down a lit chimney?

Well, okay, at least he gets his dream gig out of it.

Now I want to step back and get a bit meta. What the heck were Rankin/Bass doing depicting Santa as such a hater? I know it's hard to remember, but he wasn't always a sugar-water salesman . Santa Claus started out as a widely beloved Catholic saint. And now he ends up here.

It's time to take a stand! You can't just depict Santa Claus as some sort of difference-hating fool with a selfish streak and get away with it. Think of the children!

And now, it is time for some nog. Merry Christmas, and God bless us every one.

Comments

super funny post,laughf out

super funny post,laughf out loud funny.great read as well.your writing skills are wicked.

We've got it coming and glowing...

Thanks for your pointer to this. Seems like we are both in Christmas Critic mode...

I remember a comedian years ago doing a riff on the fact that Hermey is obviously gay, and that it's kind of weird that the stand-in for being a homosexual is to be a Doctor of Dental Surgery.

Given that so much of our current Christmas fare are from the 60s, 70s and 80s, one wonders if there is a classic Christmas tale that isn't spoiled by attitudes and outdated cultural biases of those decades.

A Charlie Brown Christmas? Great jazz by Vince Guaraldi, and only one brief nod to solemnity by Linus for what must be all of 20 seconds. Still, CB seems to spend an awful lot of time whining about how he can't get things right, etc. In Yiddish, he'd be called a schlemazel (According to the 'fable', there are 2 kinds of people in the world, schlemiels and schlemazels. Schlemiels go around spilling soup on everybody - think Jerry Lewis. Schlemazels go around getting the soup spilled on them. Curiously enough, there doesn't seem to be a lot of sympathy for either of them, be they clumsy oaf or perpetual victim.)

A Christmas Carol? Seems to take forever to convince Scrooge of his miserly ways and when he converts, it's almost creepy, like a newly turned Hare Krisha. As for which version, I'm on the fence between Alastair Sim and Albert Finney. Still, I like Dickens' poltics and Christmas Future as played by the grim reaper kicks butt.

I can't abide by Frosty the Snowman (seems an awful lot like ET On Ice)

Haven't seen Miracle on 34th Street or any of the versions of Heidi (Although I'd bet a porn version would be great. That little outfit...)

I'm a big fan of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, with its clear message against consumerism, but it may have been been semi-ruined by the terrible Jim Carey remake.

Speaking of Rankin Bass, what about "The Year Without a Santa Claus"? The song by Snow Miser is absolutely over-the-top. You just can't beat lines like: "Friends call me Snow Miser. Whatever I touch turns to ice in my clutch... I'm too much!"

Anyway, this is fertile cultural ground, isn't it? Mind you, making fun of treacly Holiday films is like shooting fish in a barrel.

You forgot to mention that

You forgot to mention that not one person actually apologizes for the way they treated Rudolph, so there's never a lesson learned.\

Its nice to know I am not

Its nice to know I am not the only one who gets aggravated every year watching Santa be such an idiot. No wonder I threw a candy cane at him when I was 3 and my mother has no pictures of me with him (I did NOT want to run into him- even in summer (yeah I know, and I am still a dork lol), and couldnt understand why he couldnt ever bring me a stuffed rudolph when I asked for it). I got bullied in school and related a lot to the rudolph side, its no wonder I wasnt a santa fan! If *anyone* should be giving young people and reindeer unconditional love and kindness and setting a good example, its santa dammit!!! :P